Marine Le Pen under fire for absenteeism and untruths
As the European election campaign picks up, French politicians are attacking Marine Le Pen for ignoring her parliamentary her responsibilities in Brussels. EurActiv France reports.
Criticising the absenteeism of the National Front in the European Parliament has gone mainstream in the lead up to the European elections in France.
Yannick Jadot, a Green MEP, tweeted that "Marine Le Pen is on the same committee as Karim Delli, but Karim Delli has never seen her."
Following her success in the French local elections in March, in which the far-right party won 14 towns, Marine Le Pen wants to keep the momentum up, and increase the number of National Front MEPs from 3 to over twenty.
According to a survey carried out for Paris Match and Sud Radio on 11 April, Le Pen's party will come out first at the European elections in France, with 24% of voting intentions, followed closely by the centre-right UMP (23%) and the Socialist Party (21%).
As the popularity of the National Front increases, French politicians from all political backgrounds are criticising Marine Le Pen's anti-European politics, and her absenteeism, during two terms in Brussels.
French Green candidate Jose Bové strongly criticised the National Front chief, accusing her of "militant absenteeism" for being present only during plenary sessions, and boycotting committee work.
According to statistics from Votewatch, Le Pen failed in her parliamentary work. The far-right MEP recorded a plenary vote participation of 65.6%, much lower than the 83.3% average for French MEPs. By maintaining a presence of above 50%, Marine Le Pen meets the threshold under which MEPs lose half of their daily allowances.
Marine Le Pen wrote three parliamentary questions and made 44 interventions during five years of plenary sessions. She has not written any resolutions or reports, or made any declarations since 2009.
However, she is not the only French MEP to have deserted her seat in the European Parliament. The chronic absenteeism of the other two National Front MEPs, Jean-Marie Le Pen and Bruno Gollnish, is also under attack.
"Jean-Marie Le Pen has been there for almost 30 years. What has he brought to the European Union? Nothing. What does Marine Le Pen achieve through her absence? Nothing," claimed Nadine Morano, a former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy's government. "The Le Pens use the European Parliament as a family business. It is an SME for them. They go there to recieve their pay checks, but not to work."
The European election candidates have also been criticised by the current President of the European Parliament, and socialist candidate for President of the Commission, Martin Schulz. Last week, the National Front leader refused to take part in a debate with him on French television.
Martin Schulz reacted by referring to her absence from the European Parliament. "She does not want to debate with an MEP, as she knows she has a bad track record at the European Parliament. She did nothing but sit there for five years," he stated.
>> Read: Le Pen's 'dodgy' politics
"Her participation in the Parliament will remain awful and her track record bad. The National Front has nothing to offer, apart from cushiony allowances for absent representatives at the taxpayer's expense," Schulz claimed.
During a televised debate, it was an UMP candidate from the Paris area, Alain Lamassoure, who confronted Marine Le Pen. "You are part of the committee on employment and social affairs: you attended once in seven years," stated Lamassoure during the debate on France 2, on April 10. "You tell voters: vote for me. I have done nothing for ten years and I want five more!"
In response to the rise of euroscepticism in France, it is easier to attack the National Front's performance in Parliament than its anti-European ideas, whilst these ideas gain popularity among the French electorate.
Many of Marine Le Pen's ideas abouts the EU anger her critics, who denounce her recurrent untruths, notably about the monetary union.
"Everyone knows: leaving the euro will increase the cost of living by 20-30%. It would lead to the loss of all France's economic ties. It will not provide a solution," claimed José Bové, denouncing Marine Le Pen's fabrications on the benefits of leaving the euro.
In the European Parliament, French MEPs also respond with outrage to Le Pen's declarations. In March, left-wing MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat denounced Marine Le Pen's misuse of statistics on immigration numbers published by the European agency Frontex. "M. Le Pen's manipulation of numbers is nothing new. She is increasing fear, and making people turn in on themselves," claimed the MEP.
In February, the centre-right MEP Alain Cadec also had his say. "During the TV show Mots Croisés, Marine Le Pen [..] claimed that the European Parliament was set to vote on the 'Lunacek Directive' which, according to her, would legislate on surrogacy and assisted reproduction at a European level. What next!" claimed the UMP MEP in a communiqué.
"There is a report titled Lunacek that was voted on Tuesday, but it is a simple opinion vote with no legal significance. It is called an 'own-initiative report'. Either way, the draft contains no mentions of surrogacy or assisted reproduction," Cadec noted.
According to surveys, the far right and left will increase numbers in the European Parliament after the May 2014 European elections. The financial and then economic crisis engendered a lack of confidence across Europe, especially in Southern Europe and France, where the Front National has thrived.
- 22-25 May 2014: European elections in 28 Member States