(JTA) — The head of France’s Jewish community said he feared that the country’s far-right National Front party may win the next presidential elections.
“It is 8 P.M. on May 14, 2017. The face of [National Front leader] Marine Le Pen appears on the television screens of millions of Frenchmen on the second round of the presidential election, she becomes the Republic’s 8th president,” Roger Cukierman, head of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday by Le Monde.
In the op-ed titled “Front National, my nightmare for 2017,” he added: “I, who survived World War II as a child in hiding, tremble [at the thought of] our country sinking under a regime whose populism stifles minority views; sidelines those outside its norms and redefines rights and liberties as it pleases.”
Founded in the 1970s by Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father, the National Front has established itself as France’s third-largest political party. In 2002, it made it to the second round in the presidential elections, winning 17 percent of the vote before being decisively defeated.
Analysts have attributed the success of the anti-Muslim Front National to rising discontent over tensions connected to the arrival of millions of Muslim immigrants over the past few decades.
Under Marine Le Pen, the party has sought greater respectability and has distanced its policies from the anti-Semitic and racist statements made by her father and other top National Front figures.
The party won nearly 18 percent of the votes in the first round in the last presidential elections in 2012 but did not make it to the second round.
Responding to Cukierman’s warning, National Front Vice President Louis Aliot penned an op-ed published Thursday on the website nationspresse.info.
If Le Pen is elected, then “contrary to what certain pressure groups say, she would lead a pluralistic government that would defend both freedom of speech and the law,” he wrote.