May 26, 2014
Marine Cécile Naves, political scientist and director of Think Tank Different, discussed the Front national’s recent victories and how the media’s fascination with Islam may have bolstered the FN’s credibility. While the percentage of voter abstention was relatively consistent with that of the previous European Parliament elections in 2009, the FN’s success rose from 6% to 25%. Naves argues that it is therefore incorrect to argue that voter abstention is the reason for the FN’s victory. She believes that a vote for the FN “is no longer one of protest but of adhesion to values. More and more voters want the FN to be in power, which was not the case in the 1980s and 90s.”
The FN’s strategies were implemented by Marine Le Pen, whose goal is to continue to gain political power in France. This approach was seen in the 2014 municipal elections, where her goal was to gain power town by town. Such a strategy is in direct contrast to that of her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who did not seek overwhelming political victories.
Naves explains that one reason for the FN’s appeal may be that the party represents a rejection of political elites who are disconnected from the public. She contends that “an identity crisis is apparent in all of Western Europe, but also in the United States and elsewhere, concerning the opening of borders, cultural exchanges with other religions such as Islam, and the manner in which the media presents Islam…There is a fear of modernity, of a society that is more and more open. There is an idea of reversed colonization.”
Islam certainly played a part in Le Pen’s discourse. She has openly voiced discontent with France’s current immigration policies and Muslims’ presence in France. Many Muslims are worried about what the FN’s victory might mean for them. However, before the victory’s implications become apparent, Naves discusses how the French media’s fascination with Islam may have contributed to the FN’s success.
When asked if the mediatization of Islam in France favors FN ideology, Naves replied, “The manner in which Islam is treated by most media is Manichean. There is a lot of attention given to those who are openly anti-Islam and who have a harsh discourse concerning Islam.” Naves argues that in France it is difficult to speak calmly of Islam. Those who do are often confined to spheres that the media ignores, such as the research world. She contends that there is a “dramatization of Islam in France so that the problems related to Islam, such as the veil or halal meat in cafeterias, are relatively minor. Yet they are exaggerated because it attracts an audience.”