French Jews may be relieved that Jean-Marie Le Pen’s far-right National Front, which was expected to win big in Sunday’s regional elections, wound up with only 14 percent of the vote nationwide.
But Jews in the south of France, where Le Pen did best, are clearly frightened, according to Jean Kahn, president of CRIF, the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations.
Kahn said some Jewish families in Nice, where the National Front polled 30 percent of the vote, told him they were considering moving out of the city and even out of the country.
He said he was satisfied at least that CRIF helped prevent Le Pen from winning control in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azure region, which includes Nice and Marseilles.
He said his organization worked hard to get out the vote. “We physically brought voters to the polling stations, mainly in the Nice area, where Le Pen was trying for his best score,” Kahn said.
The xenophobic National Front is a single-issue party. It campaigns against immigrants under the slogan “France for the French” and advocates shipping immigrants back to their countries of origin.
Its chief targets at the moment are Arab emigres from the former French territories in North Africa and blacks from sub-Saharan Africa, whom it accuses of taking jobs away from French citizens and living off crime and welfare.
Le Pen’s harangues have gone over best in the south of France, which is closest to North Africa and has had the largest influx of immigrants. The mainstream parties have shied away from the issue.
LARGEST RIGHT-WING PARTY IN EUROPE
Although Le Pen boasted before the elections that he would get 20 percent of the overall vote in the 22 regions of France, his 14 percent showing reflected massive voter discontent with the major parties on the left and right.
If his score was not quite up to his expectations, it gave France the dubious distinction of having the strongest right-wing extremist party in Europe.
The National Front gained 4.5 percentage points over its showing in the 1986 regional elections, while the ruling Socialist Party, with a meager 18 percent of the national vote, was down 11 percentage points from 1986.
The two mainstream right-wing parties scored 33 percent between them nationally but were down 8 percentage points from 1986.
The Communist Party’s 8 percent represented a drop of 2 percentage points.
The only gainers besides Le Pen were two quarreling environmental parties, the left-leaning Greens, which scored 6.9 percent, and the new centrist Ecological Generation, headed by Cabinet Minister Brice Lalonde, which got 7.3 percent.
The center-right opposition, which led in 19 regions, faces a dilemma this Friday, when it must elect its own council chairpersons or forego power. It could seek an alliance with Le Pen or ask for help from the ecologists.
Most center-right leaders have vowed to avoid a coalition with the National Front. Whether they keep their promises remains to be seen.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.