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What French election results reveal about the spread of racism in Europe

Emmanuel Macron has won a second term in office after defeating his long-time rival, Marine Le Pen. Macron won by 58.55 percent to 41.45 percent, which is generally being described as a greater margin than expected. 

On the other hand, her performance was deemed ‘significant’, Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right National Rally Party (Rassemblement National or RN), received the highest of her last three failed presidential bids. 

Le Pen added 4 million more votes which brought her total voter number to 13 million votes in which the far right for the first time came this close to power in France. 

“The ideas we represent have reached new heights,” Le Pen told supporters in a defiant speech, hailing a “shining victory” even as she conceded defeat to the incumbent, Emmanuel Macron. 

Marine Le Pen, who is the most prominent figure in extreme-right politics in France, harps on racism, immigration, and white nationalism, took over the party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011 in a bid to make it more electable. She was able to achieve that by using the platform of tax cuts to tackle the high cost of living, a ban on wearing the Muslim headscarf in public and a referendum on immigration controls.

Talking to TRT World, experts raised their concerns about the increasing magnitude of racism in France and its further repercussions in Europe following Le Pen’s significant vote increase.

Yasser Louati, a French political analyst and head of the Committee for Justice & Liberties (CJL), said the election’s result is a message which says racism is a structuring ideology in the French political landscape.

“It is no longer a monopoly of isolated groups like the National Front used to be in the 1970s and early 1980s. Today it’s an ideology that brings together sufficient people and has sufficient momentum to have a candidate reach the second round of the election,” he added. 

According to Fatih Karakaya, a Turkish journalist and France expert, the country is in a paradox. 

“The Le Pen family has been shaping France’s political future in the last five decades. However, the last election results were their 8th defeat which were also the highest vote for them. On the other hand, it was also Marine Le Pen’s third defeat. Since she changed her main strategy after the 2012 elections, Le Pen increased her votes,” Karakaya told TRT World.

“That’s of course the responsibility of Emmanuel Macron. In the past five years he spent campaigning for Le Pen in order to make sure that she becomes his opponent in 2022. That strategy has succeeded. The consequences will be disastrous in the long term,” according to Louati. 

Karakaya says that “Macron’s biggest achievement was to show himself in the centre rather than far-right. By doing so, he was able to decrease the volume of criticism towards him.”

“At this point, as Le Pen also keeps mentioning, almost all political parties in France defend the same ideology with the far-right. From closing the mosques to preventing support for Palestine and dismissing the Imams, this perspective has become a common point for the overwhelming majority in French politics,” he added.

Louati also argued that “Emmanuel Macron has applied Le Pen’s agenda” for the past five years when it comes to identity issues.

“What changes is the magnitude that can be used or followed by Le Pen. When it comes to defending white supremacy, protecting the status quo, rejecting questions of structural racism,” he told TRT World.

“Both of them follow a new illiberal agenda, both of them want the destruction of public services, and the tax credits for the big corporations. They are not in favour of the welfare of the state. They both don’t have a social mind or socially conscious or a socially-oriented programme, it is a market-based programme,” Louati added. 

Since a wave of racism hit Europe over the past few years, Louati, while commenting about France’s share in these developments said: “The racism in France has already impacted the rest of Europe”. 

“France is not the country of human rights. It might be the country where human rights were proclaimed but where never applied. When others see France, they will follow the route of Paris.” 

“When there was a headscarf ban by France many countries spoke of France as an example, they said if France can do it, why can’t we? Macron even tried other countries to rally around him in his crackdown on so-called political Islam. This spreads more trouble for the European project in the near future and even more challenges for minorities starting with Muslims, blacks and Arabs.”

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