PARIS (Nov. 27)
Jean-Marie Le Pen’s extreme right-wing National Front scored important electoral gains in two parliamentary special elections Sunday and one regional contest.
The results made clear that the party, which unabashedly appeals to racism and xenophobia, is still a political force in France, despite Le Pen’s dismal showing in the last presidential elections.
This is troubling to Jews. Although Le Pen denies being anti-Semitic, he has publicly called the Holocaust false, claiming there were no gas chambers.
In the constituency of Dreux, southwest of Paris, National Front candidate Marie-France Stirbois won nearly 43 percent of the vote, 20 percent ahead of her closest rival, who ran for the center-right.
In the 2nd constituency of Marseille, France’s second largest city, the National Front’s Marie-Claude Roussel scored 33 percent, 6 percent less than the center-right candidate, but 9 percent more than Le Pen himself scored in the same constituency last spring.
Since no candidate received an absolute majority in either of the elections, the law provides for a runoff, to be held next Sunday.
Stirbois is virtually certain of winning a seat in the National Assembly. Roussel could score an upset by mobilizing sympathetic voters who abstained Sunday because they believed the National Front had no chance.
The National Front also won first place in the race for a seat in the Marseille-Cote d’Azur provincial council. Its candidate beat both the center-right and the Socialists by better than 20 points.
CAMPAIGN AGAINST YARMULKES
Le Pen appeared on television Sunday night to exult over the election results. He declared himself a “happy man.”
National Front candidates campaigned under the banner “France for Frenchmen.” The slogan appeals to those who dislike the fact that France has become a multicultural society, with some 4 million Moslems, mostly emigres from Algeria or other former French territories in Africa.
The National Front candidates’ vigorous opposition to the construction of mosques has a frightening parallel in the resort town of Aix-les-Bains, where center-right members of the local council are trying to overturn the mayor’s recent approval of the construction of a new synagogue and Hebrew school.
The National Front campaigned against allowing the traditional Moslem veil to be worn in public schools. Now, some of its supporters are demanding a ban on the wearing of yarmulkes in state-run schools or by government officials.