PARIS (Mar. 29)
French Jewish leaders said they were generally pleased that Jean-Marie Le Pen’s far-right party won no seats in nationwide parliamentary elections, but some warned that the party’s loss of its single seat might create dangerous pressure by denying it an “outlet for excess steam.”
Although Le Pen’s National Front party won 12.5 percent of the popular vote in last week’s elections, the party failed in that first round, and in a second round of runoffs this week, to win enough votes in any single constituency to earn a seat in the Parliament.
In the second round of voting Sunday, a coalition of two conservative parties completed its trouncing of the ruling Socialist Party.
The Socialists won only 70 of the assembly’s 577 seats, down from 271, while the center-right coalition amassed 484 in an electoral landslide.
Although the Communists and allied candidates won just 9 percent of the first round popular vote — less than Le Pen — they secured 23 seats because of the way they were concentrated in those districts.
Jean Kahn, president of CRIF, the umbrella organization of French Jewry, said he expected “good things out of the new majority, regarding the relations between France and Israel.”
“When looking back at the way Roland Dumas (the former Socialist foreign minister) treated Israel, one can expect only good things to happen, and certainly not bad ones,” Kahn said.
A ‘PRESSURE COOKER WITHOUT OUTLET’
Regarding Le Pen’s knockout loss, one Jewish leader, who preferred not to be named, said the National Front’s defeat was on the whole a positive development, but gave rise to some concern.
“It’s like a pressure cooker without outlet for the excess steam. The National Front is here to stay, at least for a while, as long as the economic situation doesn’t get better.
“To keep all this dissent under pressure may become dangerous someday,” the Jewish figure said.
The new government is being quickly formed to take over from the Socialists. On Monday, President Francois Mitterrand appointed Edouard Balladur as the country’s new prime minister.
Balladur, 64, is a close friend of Jacques Chirac, who lead the Gaullist Rally for the Republic, the larger of the two parties in the conservative coalition.
Jewish leaders noted that Balladur has visited Israel twice.
The Jewish community also closely followed the outcome of the election in Sarcelles, a suburb north of Paris where about 20 percent of the population is composed of Sephardic Jews.
“The War of the Jews” in that district pitted four Jewish candidates against each other: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the outgoing Socialist Cabinet minister for foreign trade; Pierre Lellouche, the right-wing Tunisian-born defense adviser to Chirac; the Moroccan-born Fanny Mergui, who ran with the Environmentalists; and Henri Cukierman for the Communist Party.
Lellouche won the bitter battle, but only after a second-round duel with Strauss-Kahn, who was openly supported by Israeli officials.