||The Observer review yesterday carried a feature article on the newest member of the Le Pen family to enter French politics for the National Front, Marion Maréchal Le Pen.
Talking about FN policies on the economy, Europe and immigration, Maréchal Le Pen explains why the FN would like to strip second generation immigrants of French citizenship if they refuse to learn French or commit a crime.
From the paper:
“In June, Maréchal-Le Pen became the youngest MP in modern French history, at the age of 22, after topping the poll in her constituency of Carpentras in the south-eastern region of the Vaucluse, with 49.09% of the vote. And yet the most disconcerting thing about her victory was arguably not her youth but her politics: Maréchal-Le Pen is an MP for the Front National and the newest face of the French far right. Her grandfather, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founded the political party which she now represents, a party which is anti-Europe, anti-globalisation and which believes in stringent immigration controls and national protectionism.
“”Integration is no longer possible,” she says. “When you’re the single French person in the middle of 10 Tunisians, the majority will impose their way of life on the minority.”
“…it is true that her presence on the political stage forms part of a broader attempt at rebranding the party. Maréchal-Le Pen’s aunt, Marine, has been instrumental in dragging the image of the Front National into the modern era, moving away from racist rhetoric, reaffirming secularism and insisting that France should stand on its own two feet and leave the euro. In April 2011, Marine banned regional councillor Alexandre Gabriac from the party after a photograph of him giving the Nazi salute was leaked to the press, calling his behaviour “intolerable”. In return, she has been rewarded with electoral success: the Front National is now the third largest party in France. When Marine stood as a candidate in the presidential elections earlier this year, she electrified the race by polling 17.9% in the first round – more than 6m votes – eventually finishing third behind François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. But it has not all been plain sailing: although her niece was elected to parliament in June, Marine Le Pen lost her bid to win a seat by 118 votes.
“What, then, are her policies?
“On the economy, she wants France to abandon the euro and readopt the franc. She wants tighter regulation for financial institutions in the wake of the banking crisis and lower taxes for French businesses in order to regain consumer confidence. She is vehemently anti-EU – a position that has found favour with republican French voters who believe the integrity of their nation is endangered by federal government.
“”Then, of course, we have our policies on immigration,” she continues. “More and more communities are asking for the introduction of their specific religious law and that is a threat to secularisation. It’s particularly an issue among Muslim communities. Not all Muslims,” she clarifies, hastily. “Most Muslims in France are not fundamentalists. What is surprising is that the first generation of immigrants were very well assimilated. They didn’t wear the veil in public. “They kept their religion in the private sphere. Now whole immigrant communities are being created – because of past government policies – that are separate.”
“In France, where the divorce of church from state underpinned the French revolution, secularisation is viewed as a basic tenet of the country’s progressive thought. Since April 2011, women have been banned from wearing the burqa or the niqab in public. In this context, Maréchal-Le Pen’s comments are not especially controversial. But then she goes even further, outlining a plan to strip second-generation immigrants of citizenship if they commit a crime or refuse to learn French.
“This is all so smoothly expressed, that it takes a moment for the impact of it to hit home: that the law, under the Front National, would mean one thing for those descended from immigrants and another thing entirely for what Maréchal-Le Pen views as the “true” French race.
“Isn’t her stance racist? “That accusation is largely used by our opponents to discredit us. I don’t see how it’s racist to prioritise French nationals. We’re not talking about black or white. It’s normal that French people who pay taxes should be prioritised, just as an Algerian who is naturalised will have priority [in social housing and employment].”
“Immigration, she concedes, “has also been good” for France. The problem, as she sees it, is that past government policies have failed, causing resentment among those who believe their country is being overrun by “outsiders”. She goes on to claim that a number of Muslim women, who feel pressurised into wearing the veil within their communities, are also supportive of her position.
“”There are women who say to me, ‘I can’t wear a skirt,’ or ‘I’ll be insulted if I don’t wear a veil or don’t go to the mosque.’ There’s a pressure within the community imposed by others. Those people, more and more, are calling on us to act because we are the only ones who see secularism as fundamentally important.”
“Perhaps Maréchal-Le Pen is right that immigration needs to be discussed and that MPs are wary of doing so in case they are accused of racism. Some of her opinions have the sheen of plausibility. She is not unlikable. But the tone of her last answer suggests a more disturbing set of beliefs at play beneath the surface: a whiff of something rotten at the core of her politics and a sense that the world is made up of people who can be divided easily into “us” or “them”.”