Le Pen win a ‘total disaster’ for the world
Violence in Paris has boosted Marine Le Pen’s campaign to become French president. A top diplomat says this would mean the collapse of the euro. Could she deliver a bigger shock than Trump?
Rioters armed with iron bars hide their faces. Gangs start fires, threaten pupils in their classrooms and throw paving stones through windows. Teachers barricade themselves inside classrooms. Police officers are pelted with rocks.
Welcome to the suburbs of northern Paris, where three lycées in crime-ridden areas came under attack this week. “I have never seen such a level of aggression,” said one teacher.
France is beset by social, ethnic and religious tensions. Its economy is sluggish. There is an ongoing state of emergency after a series of terrorist attacks. Mainstream politicians are dogged by scandal. Books about national decline are selling well.
All this may boost the appeal of politicians who are tough on crime, immigration, globalisation and Islamism.
Enter Marine Le Pen, the leader of Front National — a party with origins on the far-right. Current polls suggest she is likely to finish second when France chooses a new president in May. But last year, similar polls suggested Donald Trump would not win the US presidency.
Now commentators in the UK and USA are saying Le Pen could deliver a similar shock.
“Democrats are right to worry,” wrote Natalie Nougayrѐde in The Guardian. “We are now bracing ourselves for the possible impossible,” Sylvie Kauffmann wrote in The New York Times.
Le Pen has promised to reduce immigration drastically and take France out of the euro. She would probably hold a referendum on France’s EU membership. Like Trump, she is hostile to her country’s traditionally liberal social, economic and foreign policies.
France’s US ambassador has warned of “a total disaster” if she won. “It means the collapse of the EU,” he said. “It means the collapse of the euro and a financial crisis, which will have consequences throughout the world.”
And a Le Pen win would boost nationalist leaders who are surging across much of central and eastern Europe and Scandinavia. So how would this compare to Trump’s ascent to the White House?
It would be an even bigger shock, say some. France was at the centre of the Enlightenment — if the French can turn against it, liberal democracy can be threatened anywhere. The EU was first created to encourage French cooperation with Germany. And events in Europe are pivotal to world history, hence its importance in the world wars and the cold war.
“Hyperbole,” cry others. The fate of the world lies more in the hands of America than France. The United States is the world’s most prominent democracy. Its military and economic might are unrivalled. And its republic, revolution and constitution have proved uniquely enduring and inspiring. No result in France could rival the shock which Trump created.
- Which country interests you more: the USA or France?
- Whose victory would be a bigger shock: Marine Le Pen or Donald Trump?
- You have been asked to predict the outcome of the French election. In pairs, list five things you would do to help you make an educated prediction.
- Prepare a one-page fact file on Marine Le Pen, and then write a page explaining how far she is similar to, or different from, Donald Trump.
Some People Say...
“Events in Europe are more important than anywhere else on Earth.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- I’m not French. Does this matter?
- This election will affect people around the world, especially in Europe. If France pulls out of the euro, it would cause major change in the countries that use it. That could affect trade and companies’ decisions globally, changing your job opportunities. Le Pen’s social platform, especially on immigration, may also inspire leaders with similar sentiments elsewhere — including in your country.
- But doesn’t France have unique problems?
- Perhaps, but it is also grappling with questions similar to those the rest of the West is facing. People around the world are becoming more interconnected, so how should countries respond? Do we need tough leaders? What sort of society do we want to live in? These crucial questions will certainly affect you as you get older.
- The equivalent of sixth form colleges.
- Growth is slow, unemployment high and government finances weak.
- François Fillon, the centre-right Republican candidate, is under investigation for alleged misuse of parliamentary funds.
- Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie, a Holocaust denier, founded the FN in 1972. His daughter says she has “de-demonised” the party; critics say its candidates are authoritarian and anti-Muslim.
- Polls suggest she will finish in the top two in the first round. But to win she will need 50% of the vote in a run-off, probably against the centrist Emmanuel Macron.
- Next week Geert Wilders is expected to get the most votes in the Dutch general election. In Germany, with an election in September, the anti-immigration AfD has won representation in ten state parliaments since September. Similar parties have made recent gains in countries such as Finland, Hungary and Sweden.
- The 18th century period when philosophers stressed the role of reason, drawing on French thinkers including Descartes, Rousseau and Voltaire.