Tag Archives: Front National

The French Right Marches against Gay Marriage

I live in North Carolina, a state governed by Christian extremists who have banned gay marriage and fear that the federal government is a leftist dictatorship intent on taking away their rights. Last week, I returned to Paris for the first time in two years and, on Sunday, was fortunate enough to witness a mass demonstration—of Christian extremists who oppose gay marriage and believe that France is governed by a leftist dictatorship intent on taking away their rights.

Manif pour tous, 05-26-13 023Sunday’s gathering was the latest in a series of protests against the legalization of same-sex marriage. This one was unusual in that it occurred after President François Hollande had promulgated the legislation—known as the “Taubira law,” after Christiane Taubira, France’s justice minister—on May 17. Hollande himself had dubbed the initiative “le marriage pour tous”—“marriage for everyone.” In reply, Sunday’s event called itself a “manif pour tous”—a “demonstration for everyone.” In this way, the organizers sought capitalize on polls suggesting that a narrow majority of the French public opposes the law. They also went out of their way to present themselves as positive and inclusive, insisting, at least officially, that they were not gay-bashers. They showcased, for instance, several gay participants who favor civil unions but not marriage for same-sex couples. Continue reading

Who Will Be the New Face of the French Right? Part I: Jean-François Copé

What does it mean to be “on the right”? In France, this question has long been debated. The great political scientist René Rémond famously saw the right in France as torn between a series of apparently contradictory positions: secularism and clericalism, authoritarianism and liberalism, statism and anti-statism. In recent decades, the French right has seemed similarly fractured, in ways that both perpetuate and depart from its earlier cleavages. It can espouse free-market capitalism but also “economic patriotism,” European integration as well as national sovereignty, republican tolerance but also rabid xenophobia. In particular, the French right has been dogged by the persistent problem of its relationship with the National Front (Front national, or FN). Does the Le Pen family party ultimately share many of the mainstream right’s values, only expressing them in more virulent terms? Or is the FN’s identity sui generis, as distinct from the center right as the latter is from the left? Continue reading

French Politics after the Parliamentary Elections

Last Sunday, June 17, the French—well, some of them (voter abstention was unusually high)—went to the polls for the fourth time in 2012, bringing the year’s election season (two rounds for president and another two for the parliament’s lower house) to a close. As a result, France has a new president, a new government, and a new National Assembly. Now that the campaigning is over, are there any general conclusions to be drawn about the 2012 cycle? Americans like to glean election results for signs of “realignments.” Do France’s elections over the past two months show evidence of shifting political tides?

In many ways, the French political landscape looks remarkably stable: this year’s elections were, for the most part, classic left-right contests. If anything, it could be argued that France’s famously fragmented political spectrum has become streamlined, evolving towards an almost “Anglo-Saxon” system of bipolarization. Yet this is, I think, somewhat misleading. The 2012 elections have occurred in the midst of a major international crisis (the Eurozone meltdown and the prospect of a new recessionary dip) that has weakened the French economy, shaken its political class, and unsettled the country’s already tenuous sense of national identity. The left-right confrontation that prevailed in this year’s elections may look conventional, but in light of the circumstances, this familiarity is misleading: this traditional cleavage has played itself out in a context of considerable ideological uncertainty and partisan reconfiguration. Continue reading