PARIS – The shock of Le Pen fills the streets of Paris as the French, ignoring the rain, fill neighborhood cafes to discuss “the disgusting beast.”
The French are stunned after the first round of elections in which “fascist” Jean-Marie Le Pen captured 17 percent of the vote to President Chirac’s 19 percent. Le Pen, energized by his National Front Party showing in Sunday’s election, addressed the European Parliament on Wednesday. Le Pen excoriated the European Union for toadying to Washington’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Bloodshed at “the cradle of Jesus” was a travesty, he warned.
Such language offends two groups of Frenchmen. The Left, who wince that any modern politician mentions the name of Jesus publicly, but also those who hear anti-Semitism in the remark. “We French are still embarrassed by L’affaire Drefuss and our example before the war,” explained a hotel receptionist. “Le Pen for most French people is a live photograph of our xenophobic history.”
Passions erupted at the European Parliament as Le Pen took the floor. Members of Parliament brandished placards denouncing his presence: “No Nazis,” “NON!” The raucous outbursts by MEPs added to the anger the average Frenchman has over the growing dysfunction of French politics.
“You see? They behaved in an uncivilized manner. They are outlaws who do not respect the democratic process because the results are now a difficulty for them,” said a woman at a newspaper kiosk. “Chirac ignores what our vote means. Many people are too [fed up] of politics No one cares for the French people – politicians are for politicians, not for the people. Le Pen is not a good man. We have no good men in French politics.”
That remark underscores a French dilemma. Thousands stayed home, refusing to vote, and thousands more cast their vote as a protest against Chirac’s entrenched – and, some claim, corrupt – power. Le Pen grabbed 26 percent of the blue-collar vote, a deafening denouncement of the traditional Communist and Socialist candidates.
The run-off election between Chiac and Le Pen is scheduled for May 5.
Students filled the fashionable Left Bank Rue Grenelle on Thursday carrying signs denouncing Le Pen: “Vote for the crook, not the Nazi.” A student organizer told WorldNetDaily that many students had not voted in the primary.
“Now we must make sure that this disgusting man is not elected,” he said. “Le Pen is filled with hate for immigrants and for gays and for an open culture! We must defeat this pig of a man!”
The protesters in front of the Institute for Politics spilled over into the street of trendy European boutiques to the surprise of shoppers. The 100-plus students at the “manifestation” (demonstration) were patrolled by Gendarmes, amused by the passionate but peaceful gathering.
A middle-aged observer said, “They are passionate, but they do not understand why Le Pen appeals to those outside of Paris. Many French agree that their politicians have dismissed worries over the loss of the French franc and loss of sovereignty. When Le Pen shouts to the crowd that France is to the European Union as Alabama is to your Washington D.C., many of us are smiling behind our hands.” Le Pen also did well in Provence and other areas where concern over illegal immigration runs high.
Along the Rue de Rennes, the proprietor of a stationary shop expressed a fear that the surge in right-wing politics is overtaking Europe. After the election of Haider in Austria and Berlusconi in Italy, some Europeans see a return to pre-World War II politics, which resulted in a climate favorable to Fascism.
“We must learn to resolve our desire for retaining our culture without the rise of nationalism,” the shop owner said. “This is the challenge of the 21st century, yes? But it is no difficulty for May 5. Chirac will win this time – it has been a good lesson.”
Le Pen, who joined the Resistance in his teens, appeals to those whose anti-globalization stance is joined to a resurgent patriotism. Nevertheless, his public rebuttal of charges of anti-Semitism ring hollow to many would-be followers. Le Pen is critical of the dissolution of traditional family values, particularly issues over “gay rights.” Despite these policies that attract conservative French, Le Pen has become an icon of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiment.
A taxi driver remarked, “I have nothing against the Arabic immigrants. Why should I? We have many football (soccer) players from Egypt and Morroco.