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French elections: The far right looks set for power, with dire consequences for Muslims

With a struggling economy, Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella will further weaponise cultural and identitarian issues, and increasingly toxify life in France for minorities
An electoral poster of the French far-right Front National party (RN) with defaced portraits of party President Jordan Bardella and President of the RN parliamentary group Marine Le Pen (L), in Paris on 10 June, 2024 (Joel Saget/AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron’s surprise dissolution of the National Assembly following his humiliating European election defeat is producing shockwaves across the entire political landscape well beyond France.

Three radically opposite blocs now confront each other for the unexpected blitzkrieg legislative elections of 30 June and 7 July, with little possibility of significant vote transfers from one of the coalitions to the other between the two rounds.

The most surprising plot twist which no one, including Macron, expected has been the rapid reunification of the four main opposition parties of the left into the New Popular Front: the Socialists (nearly 14 percent at the European election), La France Insoumise/France Unbowed (nearly 10 percent), the Greens (5.5 percent), and the Communists (2 percent).

Given the electoral maths, there were only two options for the left: unite and get a chance at both winning and defeating Macron and the far right, their historical arch-enemy, or remain divided and perish at the ballot box. 

At a projected 20-23 percent, the third place, the Macronist Ensemble coalition, often described as centre-right, stands no chance of winning. 

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At 25-30 percent, the New Popular Front has from the start remained well ahead of the Macronist central bloc, but even with its real momentum, it lags far behind the National Rally, itself between 33 and 35 percent. 

Counting the probable second round vote transfers to Jordan Bardella from the other far-right parties, such as Eric Zemmour’s Reconquest (5.5 percent at the European election) and a guaranteed substantial vote switch from the conservative party LR/The Republicans (7.25 percent), the far right may reach or exceed 40 percent.

The electoral maths are damning. All by itself, the National Rally remains well ahead of both the left and centre-right coalitions. It is bound to become the largest political force by far at the next National Assembly, followed by the New Popular Front. 

Consequences for Gaza

A France with a National Rally prime minister and government means a complete abandonment by the executive of the cause of Palestine.

Bardella’s line on this has been and will remain clear: Israel was savagely attacked on 7 October, it has the right to defend itself; Hamas is the sole culprit, and we stand firmly behind Israel. They will not even pay lip service to the genocide of the Palestinians.

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Ironically given its origins, a major part of Marine Le Pen’s “detoxification” strategy has consisted of recreating itself as a pro-Israel, pro-Jewish party. Besides offering a more respectable face that contributes to its normalisation, this has also enabled the National Rally (former National Front) to better demonise their main hate figures (Muslims and the left) as the worst antisemites in France.

In other words, the suffering of Jews is used as a means to further spread Islamophobia, usually under the alibi of fighting “Islamism” or “Islamo-leftism”, just like Israel is often used by western Zionists as a weapon-state to keep Arab countries in check and brutalise its Muslim-majority populations. 

Unfortunately, this cynical seduction strategy has been highly successful, fooling many. 

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Serge Klarsfeld himself, the famous Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor, just declared that the French far right was no longer an enemy and that if he had to choose between them and rance Unbowed, he would vote for the far right.

Ironically, it is now the leftist France Unbowed that is being portrayed, again successfully, as a party of antisemites on the mere basis of a couple of clumsy declarations by its leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon, such as “antisemitism in France is residual”. 

Its initial refusal to describe Hamas as “a terrorist organisation”; its choice of Rima Hassan for the European election; its strong condemnations of Israel’s atrocities; and its resolute pro-Palestinian positions and student movements have given them the reputation, now well-established even within the New Popular Front, of dangerous left-wing radicals, “anti-French” Islamo-leftists, rabid antisemites, and apologists of Hamas terrorism.

As a result, the image of the only significant pro-Palestinian party has been gravely degraded to the point that no one, even in the New Popular Front, wants Melenchon as prime minister. 

France Unbowed itself seems to have understood that, as suggested by the fact that Rima Hassan - who for weeks had become its main media figure - was no longer included in the photo-ops for the election, and was nowhere to be seen for the high-profile announcements of the creation of the New Popular Front.

There has also been no talk and barely any mention of Palestine during this campaign, even among the leaders of France Unbowed.

This being said, their promotion of the Palestinian cause and a figure like Hassan was successful and, at nearly 10 percent, helped them increase by three percent their electoral European score, largely thanks to the mobilisation of pro-Palestinian youths from the “banlieues”.

Forced into compromises

Since its creation in 2017, France Unbowed has also been by far the strongest - actually, the only - French political voice against Islamophobia in France.

It is also the only party that dares talk about and denounce systemic and state racism and the only one to propose the abrogation of the infamous “law against Islamist separatism”, a major part of Macron’s “Systemic Obstruction Policy”.

The risk is now that even the LFI, diluted as it is in a larger coalition, would tone down its strong anti-Islamophobia rhetoric, moderate or silence its much-needed positions, or be forced into compromises out of fear of introducing dissent within the New Popular Front.

La France Insoumise leader Jean-Luc Melenchon speaks during a meeting in support of 2024 legislative elections candidates in Montpellier on 23 June 2024 (Sylvain Thomas/AFP)
La France Insoumise leader Jean-Luc Melenchon speaks during a meeting in support of 2024 legislative elections candidates in Montpellier on 23 June 2024 (Sylvain Thomas/AFP)

Nonetheless, the New Popular Front programme includes many of France Unbowed’s proposals, including “ending the French government’s support for the right-wing supremacist government of Netanyahu,” “the liberation of Palestinian political prisoners”, an “embargo on weapons sales to Israel” (among other sanctions), the “immediate recognition of the Palestinian state”, and “the organisation of free Palestinian elections under international supervision”. 

All things that are conspicuously absent from the programmes of the other parties.

It also proposes abrogating many of the recent xenophobic laws targeting populations from the Global South (especially Muslims) such as the Migration and Asylum Pact, while facilitating access to French nationality.

Needless to say, on all those issues, the National Rally, largely borrowed from Marine Le Pen’s 2022 presidential programme, proposes the radical opposite, while its likely future right-wing allies at the National Assembly, such as Zemmour’s Reconquest, are even more extreme in their heinous and racist targeting of foreigners, immigrants from the South, Muslims, and Islam.

Alarming for Muslims

Cloaked, as is now routine, as a “fight-against-Islamism-for-the-defence-of-Republican-values-especially-laicite”, the real motive seems to be the creation of a nativist, all-white (or mostly white) homogenous society of citizens purged of its ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, in pure Great Replacement fantasy.

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Besides the trademark “end to population settlement [read: immigration] and family reunion laws”, the promotion of “national preference”, and a slew of tough-on-crime, law-and-order measures, the National Rally programme even includes such radical proposals as ending the right of the soil, which has existed since the 16th century for children born of foreign parents, and the suppression of most forms of state assistance to foreigners, including emergency medical aid, in order to stop “the migratory invasion”.

Most alarmingly for Muslims, Le Pen/Bardella also plan to “close all radical mosques”, “dissolve all associations from the ultra-left [read: all those Bardella would deem 'Islamist'] and the ultra-right”, “ban Islamist ideologies”, and make the burqa and Islamic headscarves illegal everywhere, including the street. 

Forced into realism, including economic realism now that he is at the door of power in a France that is essentially broke, Bardella has already given up or postponed most of his major socio-economic promises to help the popular classes.

To make things worse, he will thus be tempted to emphasise and prioritise even more the cultural and identitarian portions of his programmes, such as laicite (the falsified and weaponised type), “Islamism”, “separatism”, “integration” and immigration, as diversions from his inability to fulfil his economic promises.

For Muslims and other minorities, the atmosphere in France is already the worst in the West, and for years there has been a silent but massive Muslim brain drain.

With the far right in power, it will become even more toxic.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Dr Alain Gabon is Associate Professor of French Studies and chair of the Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach, USA. He has written and lectured widely in the US, Europe and beyond on contemporary French culture, politics, literature and the arts and more recently on Islam and Muslims. His works have been published in several countries in academic journals, think tanks, and mainstream and specialized media such as Saphirnews, Milestones. Commentaries on the Islamic World, and Les Cahiers de l'Islam. His recent essay entitled “The Twin Myths of the Western ‘Jihadist Threat’ and ‘Islamic Radicalisation ‘” is available in French and English on the site of the UK Cordoba Foundation.
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