This Thursday April 21 but 20 years agoan absolutely unexpected earthquake shook France: the extreme right Jean-Marie Le Pen qualified for the second electoral round against the conservative Jacques Chirac after eliminating the socialist prime minister Lionel Joseph of the presidential race. That result was a cataclysm that that very night brought out thousands of people in the streets and led Jospin to announce that he was leaving political life. Today, two decades later, the ghost is the same but France has already normalized that an applicant from the extreme right is once again well placed to run for the presidency for the third time, and more near the Elysee never.
A review of the headlines of the press the day after gives an idea of the great commotion caused in France, and also in Europe, by the result. “Shock” or “Earthquake” were the covers enconnce. An immense “Non”, illustrated the one from the newspaper of ‘Libération’. Just five days earlier, Jospin himself had burst out laughing when asked about the possibility of being eliminated in the first round of elections: “I have a normal imagination, tempered by reason,” he blurted out.
Was expected a large abstention rate -it exceeded 28%- and a strong protest vote. But never the victory of a man who had said that the gas chambers were just a “detail” in history. Chirac got 19.8% of the vote, Le Pen 16.8% and Jospin 16.1%. That same night, thousands of students took to the streets. On May 1, between the two rounds, under the slogan “Let’s save the Fifth Republic”, 1.3 million people demonstratedin the largest popular mobilization since the liberation of France, after the Second World War.
there was no discussion
“France needs you. I need you”, appealed Chirac, who refused to debate with Le Pen. “In the face of intolerance and hatred, no compromise, no compromise on principles, no debate is possible,” he said. The Republican front that was forged around Chirac’s candidacy gave him the presidency in the second round with 82.2% of the vote compared to 17.8% for Le Pen.
Five years later, in 2007 the elder LePen saw its support fall to 10.4% of the votes but far from being dead, the National Front began the path towards normalization. First with a change of leadership to daughter, Marine Le Pen, in 2011, which she soon abandoned. the anti-Semitic and most extreme positions of the patriarch. In 2012, he bettered his father’s result in the first presidential round, with 17% of the vote.
In 2014, the National Front won the European elections and in 2017, in the presidential elections, Marine Le Pen repeated the patriarch’s deed and placed herself in the second round against Emmanuel Macron. And like her father, the roll of the Republican front left her with 33.9% of the votes compared to 66.1% of the then young and promising candidate.
The duel will be repeated this Sunday but it is expected to be more close. The social discontent that fuels economic populism remains intact after five years of turmoil and Le Pen has softened her speech to make it more digestible, although deep down it remains the same: nationalist, anti-European, and anti-immigration. His seduction operation has gone through talking more about economics and leaving aside the most controversial aspects of his program. and parallel the so-called republican front is much weaker Today than five years ago, with the two major parties – Socialists and Republicans – converted into residual forces.
Twenty years have passed since that April 21 that shook France and Europe. Compared to the more than a million people who mobilized two decades ago, just over 20,000 have done so this time. The world has changed so much that see you later won the Brexit in Great Britain Y Donald Trump in America and it is no longer a chimera to think that sooner or later the extreme right can come to power in one of the fundamental democracies of the European Union.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.