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03/12/2016

National Front hopes to capitalise on the massacre of its ‘worst enemy’

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National Front hopes to capitalise on the massacre of its ‘worst enemy’

Marine Le Pen, Leader of the French National Front

[Global Panorama/Flickr]

Representatives of the French extreme right party were invited to the Presidential Palace on Friday, while some politicians believe they should be excluded from the republican march, due to take place on Sunday (11 January). EurActiv France reports

Security was tight in the Elysée quarter of Paris, the official residence of the French President, on Friday morning, with Marine Le Pen due to arrive later in the day to discuss the “exclusion of her party” from the planned demonstration in support Charlie Hebdo.

The National Front (NF), which is the largest French delegation in the European Parliament, had initially called for a measured response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, encouraging its supporters to draw a distinction between radical Islamists and other Muslims.

But the party’s stance rapidly changed as it played up its own role as a victim, capitalising on the emotional turmoil that followed the atrocity.

>> Read: Live: France in mourning after attack on Charlie Hebdo

Marine Le Pen raised the subject of a referendum on the reintroduction of the death penalty on Thursday, a long-established policy of her party.

“I want to offer the French people a referendum on the death penalty,” the NF leader announced on France 2 television. “Personally, I think this option should exist”.

The rhetoric of the party’s Vice-President, Florian Philippot, is a far cry from the calls for national unity uttered by the mainstream political parties.

“I see that even the UOIF (Union of Islamic Organisations of France) have called for demonstrations. They could have spared us this cynicism. Qatar will soon be calling for demonstrations, is that it?” Philippot said.

The National Front has been known for its violent rhetoric about French jihadists since the MEP Aymeric Chauprade called for them to be “eliminated” in an editorial last summer.

>> Read: National Front MEP calls for the ‘elimination’ of French Jihadists

NF plays the victim

The party tried to polarise opinion on the republican march, planned for Sunday afternoon, accusing the two main parties of underhand “political manoeuvring”.

The march was originally organised by left-wing parties, but politicians of all colours, as well as trade unions and associations, are encouraging participation.

Some politicians have spoken out against the National Front’s participation in the demonstration, a position Marine Le Pen has used to assert her party’s position as a victim at the hands of the mainstream political parties.

The Communist newspaper l’Humanité wrote categorically that “the NF has no place” at the demonstration. But the French media as a whole has been rather more cautious its pronunciations, keen not to legitimise the NF’s claims of victimisation.

Yann Marec wrote in Midi Libre that excluding the National Front would “give a new platform to a party that wants to present itself as a national pariah”.

Charlie Hebdo: Marine Le Pen’s natural enemy

The satirical paper, victim of Wednesday’s terrorist attack, along with the Canard Enchaîné, another left-wing satirical publication, are without a doubt the worst enemies of the extreme right movement, which often finds itself the subject of their ridicule.

Charlie Hebdo has consistently fought the National Front, publishing many caricatures of Marine Le Pen and her father. It may therefore seem paradoxical that the attack on Hebdo should benefit the NF. But the party’s Facebook page has seen an explosion of activity this week, gaining 5,000 followers; an increase of 383%. 

Background

The National Front is the largest French party in the European Parliament with 23 MEPs.

They have been trying to ride the wave of momentum they built up during the last European elections to become the most important political party in France. 

On Wednesday (7 January), the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo was the victim of the worst terrorist attack seen in France since the Saint Michel bombing in 1995.

>> Read: Europe mourns France's bloodiest terrorist attack for 20 years

Timeline

  • 11 Jan.: Republican march and extraordinary meeting of EU interior ministers in Paris