Marine Le Pen is a French politician and and head of the National Front, a French political party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen. Le Pen was born in Neilly-sur-Seine, France on August 5, 1968 as the youngest of three sisters. Growing up, her father’s political views strongly influenced her and in 1976, Le Pen survived a bombing that struck her family’s entire apartment building, a sign of how deeply controversial her father’s political party was.
“She’s extreme right-wing, a lot like where our government is going now,” French teacher Sonia Nunez said.
The National Front is a socially conservative nationalist party and one of the main political parties of France. They campaign to leave the European bank and return to their original currency, the franc. They oppose immigration and overtly privilege French citizens over French immigrants by demanding to reduce legal immigration by about 190,000 people each year, ban the automatic right to join a family member who legally resides in France and make legal French citizens the priority when applying for jobs and housing. The group supports a zero-tolerance approach to law and their policies include granting the Department of Justice a 25 percent increase in funding, doubling police officers and building 40,000 new prisons.
Due to terrorist attacks, Le Pen’s policies, deemed islamophobic by some, gained popularity. After the attacks on Bastille Day in Nice, she called for political leaders to launch a war on extremists and find means for the total eradication of Islamic fundamentalism. The terrorist organization ISIS declared National Front rallies as their prime targets.
“Even if they say they’re not prejudice, and we say we’re not prejudice, but we associate terrorists with Muslim. The whole world does,” Nunez said. “Unfortunately as humans, we tend to generalize, and when we’re afraid we put the whole group together. That’s the same thing that’s happening here.”
Le Pen received her law degree from the University of Paris with an advanced degree in criminal law in 1992. She then remained a certified law attorney until 1998 when she joined the administration for the National Front as the Director of Legal Affairs, she then moved up the ranks again in 2003 and became the Vice President of her party. In 2004, she made a successful run for French Parliament as her popularity soared. In 2007, she ran her father’s presidential race, whom she would surpass in the presidential election of 2012 when Le Pen was selected above her father to run. Marine Le Pen got a historic 18 percent of the vote while capitalizing off of anti-establishment sentiments and when she ran for president again in 2016 she received more than 25 percent of the vote.
Senior Jade Calvin-Nau lived in France during current president Francois Hollande’s election, Le Pen was in the running,
“She was really sexist, xenophobic and misogynistic.” Calvin-Nau said. “Her and her father have always been very right wingers and I’m usually center left. They just had no respect for minorities.”
The financial crisis in France left the French economy struggling and resulted in the dominating Socialist party to fall from favor. Unemployment remains above 10 percent and unemployment among youth is at 24 percent. The rebound economic growth is little which leaves the current Socialist president, Francois Hollande, with the lowest popularity than any French president on record.
France’s situation is not unique; several countries are experiencing political shifts towards conservative movements in the wake of economical issues. In Germany, the resentment towards the European Central Bank grew as key interest rates were cut which resulted in meager returns on savings. Many believe the euro benefits poorer countries rather than their own, resulting in the founding of the Alternative fur Deutschland party, a right-wing party preying on fear of immigration and economic woes. Not to mention the fear of terrorism that looms in the air.
“When I was in Germany last year, everyone was so afraid. In restaurants they sat facing the door to see if anyone weird came in.” Nunez said.
In the United Kingdom, recent studies show Britain suffered the largest fall in wages since the financial crisis in any developed country except Greece. According to the Guardian, Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was widely seen as frustration towards the establishment.
The economy of Italy is slow, resulting in their Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi’s center-left government to decrease in popularity, making room for politicians such as former comedian Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment movement. Vladimir Putin remains popular as Russia is ravaged by recession and western sanctions. The Russian government’s popularity decreases with the World Bank predicting as many as 20 million people to be below the poverty line in the future.
“The world is falling apart and people think they need a strong right-wing hand to kind of shake them into place,” Calvin-Nau said. “I may not agree with it, but it’s what’s happening.”
The election of Donald Trump was also due to economic hardships and general distrust for the government. Fear of mass immigration and job loss motivated American voters to depend on a right-wing party to lift them out of an economic hardship. Marine Le Pen’s soaring popularity is a result of a country experiencing the same economic issues many countries worldwide are going through as well.