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Hollande Win Gives Far-Right Le Pen New Clout

And in Greece, neo-Nazi party gets 7 percent of vote

Marc Tracy
May 07, 2012
Marine Le Pen files a blank ballot yesterday.(Denis Charlet/AFP/GettyImages)
Marine Le Pen files a blank ballot yesterday.(Denis Charlet/AFP/GettyImages)

As suspected, François Hollande, the center-left Socialist, won the French presidency yesterday, making President Nicolas Sarkozy the first French head-of-state to lose since 1981. The vote was close but decisive, and turned primarily on domestic and European issues (as well as perhaps this ad); and indeed the prime consequence is undoubtedly the potential dissolution of the French-German consensus on saving the euro through policies of austerity and debt relief. But the result does seem also to have been impacted by the third-place-finisher Marine Le Pen, who scored the most first-round votes of any candidate ever from her far-right Front National, and her decision not to endorse Sarkozy and instead to submit a blank ballot. Combine that with Sarkozy’s announced retirement upon stepping down (as soon as next week); a division in Sarkozy’s center-right Union for a Popular Movement between two feuding power brokers; and impending legislative elections next month, and we have to agree with Mr. Murdoch: Le Pen is the tentative leader of the French opposition.

Actually, for a more rigorous, pre-election explanation of how it came to be that “a far-right grouping achieves major party status for the first time since World War Two,” read David A. Bell. He in part blames Sarkozy, arguing, “Having helped to dissolve the traditional French right while failing to replace it with a coherent or popular ideology of his own, it now appears possible that Nicolas Sarkozy’s principal legacy will be the rise of Marine Le Pen.”

Bad for the Jews? Personally, I think so. French Jewish leader Richard Prasquier, who on this blog shall henceforth be known as Le Abraham Foxman, feared Hollande’s election because Sarkozy has a proven pro-Israel track record and because it might summon “a surge in leftist and Communist manifestations of anti-Zionism.” After Hollande’s win, he cautioned, “We know that some of the parties who are supposed to be partners of the coalition in favor of François Hollande are not friends of Israel. The part they will play we will see.” But the loudest marginal voice right now is Le Pen’s, and while she has ostensibly repudiated the anti-Semitism of her party (and her father), only this weekend she told Maureen Dowd, “We [her father and herself] were never racists. The vision that the U.S. might have of us is a complete caricature.” Um, actually, her father was and likely is an anti-Semite, and it is certainly debatable that she is a racist, albeit toward Muslim immigrants, not Jews.

Meanwhile, in yesterday’s Greek elections, which also highlighted the margins in the midst of the strict austerity that has been imposed on the Eurozone due to the excesses of countries like Greece, a far-left party won 16 percent of the vote, while 6.8 percent of the vote—compared to one percent just three years ago—went to Golden Dawn. This is an unabashed neo-Nazi party which among other things does not permit “non-Aryans” to join (under Nazi eugenics, I’m pretty sure that disqualifies everyone in Greece, but I digress). Guess which side Greek Jews are more fearful of?

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.