The first round of the French Presidential elections on April 22nd saw, predictably, Socialist François Hollande and incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy achieve the most votes, and thus enter the second round run-off. But the headlines were dominated by the third-placed candidate, the Front National’s Marine Le Pen, who won 17.9% of the vote. This is the highest vote ever achieved by a candidate of the far-right party, even higher than that polled by her father, Jean-Marie, when he reached the second round against Jacques Chirac in 2002.
She will now be hoping to capitalise on this for France’s parliamentary elections in June, and win seats for the FN in the National Assembly (they currently have none).
Le Pen’s success reflects the worrying trend developing across Europe, with far-right parties having made large gains in recent years in several European countries, including Hungary, Austria, Finland and the Netherlands. While none of these parties currently hold power, they are certainly in a position to influence those that do : Geert Wilders’ anti-Muslim and anti-EU Freedom party recently brought down the Dutch government when it withdrew its support for Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition.
At a time when European nations need to work together, the increasing success of parties which are anti-EU and pro-nationalist is certainly a cause for concern. The intolerance and divisiveness which they preach will not help Europe as it attempts to find a way out of the current crisis.