French far-right leader and National Front Party candidate for the presidential elections Marine Le Pen delivers a speech after the first round of presidential elections, Paris, Sunday, April 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
It’s the unpleasant outcome no one was expecting: Having won 20 percent of the French vote, Marine Le Pen can now be considered the third voice in the 2012 presidential election. Though at one time stuck fourth place, trailing Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the two frontrunners, the president of the National Front (FN), Le Pen, more than won her share of votes.
The FN, under Le Pen's leadership, obliterated her father's best vote-showing in 2002, when he won 16.86 percent of votes cast, a feat that opened the doors to a second round against Jacques Chirac. Exceeding poll projections from the last few weeks, Le Pen the younger succeeded in reaching the party’s “historic score” of 16 percent.
Le Pen's campaign drew strength by focusing on the fundamental issues of the National Front, immigration and security, but with a new target: the middle class. According to Le Pen's team, this was the key to the 2012 campaign. Taking advantage of the economic and financial crises, the FN candidate focused on discrediting political elites she believed were “responsible” for France's financial woes. Le Pen also capitalized on the general lack of enthusiasm for major-party candidates.
"Anti-liberal” proposals added a new dimension to the presidential race; the extreme right-wing party called for “another vision of man, another vision of the economy,” and for putting "French interests first, above the interests of the financial markets, and above the interests of other nations, including Europe."
The Halal Controvers And The Mehra Case
Each FN campaign generates its share of controversies. This year halal meat was the hot topic, reviving the debate over the ritual slaughter practiced by Muslims. Le Pen claims to be the “center of gravity” of political discussion.
“I talked about what was invisible, and everyone else joined in, including on the subjects of halal meat, secularism, the Euro and protectionism, which used to be considered a bad word,” Le Pen said on April 20 on the Côtes-d’Armor, during her final campaign speech.
The only real hiccup in Le Pen's campaign came during her appearance on the TV show "Des paroles et des actes" (Words and Deeds). Undermined by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Le Pen seemed unlikely to get back on track, given her poor performance against the “Front de gauche” far-left candidate.
Then came the Mehra case. Le Pen used the dramatic events to take Islam and Islamic fundamentalism head-on. Three days after the death of Mohamed Mehra, Le Pen declared radical Islam should be brought “to its knees.”
Le Pen then asked:
How many Mohamed Mehras are there on the boats and airplanes full of immigrants that arrive in France every day? How many Mohamed Mehras are there among the children of these non-assimilated immigrants?On March 31 in Nice, the far-rightist hammered the point home, saying, “With me, Mehra would not have received French citizenship.”
Her controversial statements seem to have have helped Le Pen at the polls.
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