Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

This article on Marine Le Pen at Valeurs Actuelles describes her determination to ascend to the leadership of the Front National. Some of the names mentioned may be unknown to my readers, but they are for the most part leaders and aspiring leaders within the party:

You have only to visit the website of the Front National to realize a few things. On the home page it reads: "Turkey - Sarkozy lied. With Marine Le Pen, sign the national petition against the entry of Turkey in Europe." Why her and not someone else? One close to her answers: "Somebody had to do it. Marine did it. The others had only to get the lead out!"

One month away from the convention in Bordeaux (November 17 and 18), where Jean-Marie Le Pen is expected to be reelected to one last three-year "transition" period as head of his party, the vice-president of the FN is taking up more and more room. Her objective: to impose herself at the convention as the natural heir of the old chief, and then to be the FN candidate in the 2012 presidential election.

Unwilling to sell the "Paquebot" ("ocean liner" - the nickname given to the FN headquarters in Paris), in order to pay off party debts (8 million euros) incurred as a result of losing the legislative elections, Marine Le Pen no longer rules it out.

"We're trying to obtain a five-year bank loan. (...) If we don't succeed, we'll sell the Paquebot. If we get the loan and in 2012 our results in the legislative elections are good, we'll pay it back and keep the Paquebot. If they're bad, we'll have no choice but to sell the Paquebot," that she estimates to be worth at least 20 million euros.

Without saying so publicly, the youngest Le Pen and her close associates - who are fortunately more talkative - are favorable to the elimination of the two-pronged leadership of the party (general secretary and general delegation) as a way of saving money and of strengthening her hold on the party. "The general delegation had been tailor-made for Bruno Mégret, in 1988, to counteract the rise to power of Jean-Pierre Stirbois, then secretary general. After the Mégret crisis in 1998 (when he broke with the party) this system was maintained. Two parallel structures, sometimes in competition, had its advantages. "That is no longer true today," confides a loyal associate. It is said to be Le Pen's opinion as well.

This is in contradiction to what others have said about the dictatorial nature of the FN leadership under Jean-Marie Le Pen. He was accused by dissidents of running a one-man show. The point of view expressed here, however, is that power was spread around too much and should be concentrated in one person, i.e., Marine.

My best guess in explaining this apparent contradiction is that Le Pen took total control no matter how many other leadership positions there were. And that Marine is making it more streamlined by officially eliminating some positions.

To compensate for the elimination of his position as "general delegation", Bruno Gollnisch might be offered an honorary consolation prize: command of the international branches of the FN, since Marine would be both party president and presidential candidate. Gollnisch has been recovering from heart bypass surgery, and it is said that he voluntarily withdrew from the contest for party leader.

Carl Lang, however, has announced that he will run against Marine when her father steps down, in three years. Without any real hope of winning, but just to make his weight felt. (...)

The fact is that internally, the anti-Marine coalition is starting to break down. Yes, Jean-François Touzé, advocate of a return to "fundamentals", doubts the capacity of the FN under Marine to win back the voters who went with Sarkozy. And Michel Hubault, like some others, privately worries about the "new Front National that could be born under Marine's direction. Will I feel at home in this party? I don't know."

But one of the leaders of the traditional Christians in the FN, Jean Madiran, founder of the journal Présent, has joined Marine Le Pen's camp. "The most likely outcome is that Jean-Marie Le Pen will put Marine in his own place as successor. It is also the most reasonable thing to do," he asserts. Other veterans of the FN feel the same way: Alain Jamet and Roger Holeindre, both co-founders of the FN. More than supporters, they are guarantees.

After all the hoopla about Marine's outlandish conduct, her friendships with rockers, rappers, Marxists, the disgust so many at the FN felt at the idea of her wheedling her father to give her more power, after the determined cries of "Break with Le Pen!", "Not one vote for Le Pen," in the end, they are turning to Marine Le Pen, because they have no one else. Gollnisch is sick, Carl Lang lacks charisma, and so many members have been lost along the way, either to Sarkozy or to the oblivion of a non-political life..

Photo of Marine from Wikipedia.

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At October 17, 2007 12:00 PM, Blogger crusader88 said...

While it is right to worry about supposedly reaspectable politicians associating with Marxists, especially after all you have reported on Sarkozy's cabinet choices, I would not condemn her association with "rockers and rappers" in and of itself, but only if she made dubious comments in connection with the affair.

I have long been confused with regards to the Front National's Christian Right faction. Are the Le Pens Traditionalists/are most of the party's members also Traditionalists, or is this only a minor part of the FN?

At October 17, 2007 4:16 PM, Blogger tiberge said...

@ crusader

I need to do even more research on the FN to answer your question adequately. I really knew very little myself until I began "covering" the election.

I think it is safe to say that the FN is not homogenous. There are traditional Catholics, there are
traditionalists who are not devout Catholics without necessarily being atheists, there are neo-pagans, and others. Who these "others" are I'm not sure. They are all anti-socialist, some are overtly anti-Semitic, many are anti-American (often for the wrong reasons), and so on... These petty prejudices are often powerful divisive forces within the party. There may even be a "skinhead" element too, but I doubt that it's very influential.

But the heart and soul of the FN, as far as I can tell, is "traditional Catholic". And they are people who are more concerned with France than with America or Israel, more concerned with effectively restoring traditional values to France than with accommodating themselves, through unacceptable compromises, to immigration or the EU or Turkey.

It was this traditional Catholic element - the heart and soul of the FN, so to speak, that broke away amidst much controversy from Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine. They had a long screed of complaints against Le Pen, going back decades. His foolish attempts to pander to immigrants and dubious celebrities did not go down well with the "trads" and they seized the opportunity to break, with the hope of re-founding the party along its historic traditional lines.

I don't know if they are doing this. Maybe they are - maybe groups are forming that will coalesce into a new traditional party. All I know is, for now, Mégret is issuing comminiqués, but Marine is forging ahead with a power play. She has never forgiven Mégret for dumping her father, so any kind of reconciliation is not likely for now.

Are the Le Pens traditional Catholics? Only theoretically. Jean-Marie deviated from tradition on many issues during the campaign, causing him to lose votes. He has been known to say that he feels part-Christian, part-Pagan. AFTER the election he gave a splendid speech (I forget where) expounding the most traditional positions on abortion, family values, and other issues, leading the readers at Le Salon Beige's forum to say: "If only he had talked like that during the campaign!"

Is Marine a Catholic? I think so, but she has been divorced twice, so I don't know how the Church looks upon this. (But the Church has been doing some un-Catholic things too, like accommodating itself to Islam.)

Maybe Marine will succeed where her father failed, but she will have to suddenly become very conservative, traditional and Catholic. Her friendships with celebrities, as you say not a crime in itslef, should be abandoned in favor of a campaign to win back those who left the party. She will have to try to remove anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism from the agenda without becoming (as a substitute) pro-Islam or pro-Iran.

It is hard for me to imagine what the voters who left Le Pen for Sarkozy are thinking. They were angry at Le Pen's waffling on abortion, euthanasia, immigration, Islam, etc... Look at what they got in Sarkozy. Will they join Marine? It's not known at this time, although from the article we see that some, like Madiran who must be more conservative than she is, are joining her.

The municipal elections coming up in the Spring of 2008 may give a clue.

P.S. In my article I mentioned the name of Jean-Pierre Stirbois - he was the image of the original traditional Front National. He was a galvanizing force before Le Pen. He was killed in a car accident, causing much disarray within the party, and Le Pen took control. Those loyal to Stirbois remained loyal to Le Pen, put all their hopes and energies into working for him and were often disappointed. Many left the party.

It seems safe to say that confusion and factionalism are worse in nationalist parties than they are in left-wing parties, where the various factions unite to prevent a return to hated tradition. The Right cannot seem to put aside its differences long enough to win power.

At October 17, 2007 5:39 PM, Anonymous dauphin_b612 said...

@ tiberge

I think you have made a good analysis!

At October 19, 2007 12:30 AM, Blogger tiberge said...

@ dauphin

Thank you. I just read that Marine is distancing herself from the Swiss UDC party that issued the famous "black sheep" poster I wrote about recently. She says it equates immigration with race and that she will never go in that direction.

While the poster is controversial, and she may have some valid reason for her comment, it looks like she is moving towards "ecumenism" rather than national identity. Too soon to say of course.


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