(JTA) – Jewish groups in France and Europe blamed voters’ indifference for the success of the far-right National Front party in French local elections.
National Front candidates were elected mayors in 11 municipalities in the vote on Sunday — a dramatic increase over the party’s previous record of four mayors in 1997, the news site europe1.fr reported. A record number of French voters did not cast ballots.
“The message is loud and clear that the French electorate is either not taking the threat from the far right seriously or they do not care,” Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the European Conference of Rabbis, said in a statement Monday.
Jewish groups and leaders have feared National Front’s rise because its leaders include politicians with a penchant for anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric. Among them is Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party founder and honorary president, and the father of current leader Marine Le Pen.
Jean-Marie Le Pen has several convictions for inciting racial hatred against minorities and denying or minimizing the Holocaust.
“This result should sound alarm bells across Europe and indeed the world, that the politics of hatred are making a formidable comeback,” Goldschmidt said.
The Union of Jewish Students of France, or UEJF, said in a statement Sunday following the close of polls that it “regrets the success of National Front in many municipalities” and blamed the result on the indifference of voters and authorities to efforts by organizations such as UEJF to prevent National Front victories.
Goldschmidt also referred to perceived inaction, saying, “No doubt most analysts will characterize the success [of the National Front] as a protest against what many see as the failings of [French President] Francois Hollande, but there is no question that it benefited enormously from a record abstention of 38.5 percent.”