Her overtures to the Jewish community are
part of a wider effort, aimed at building upon the 10% of the vote her father
attracted in 2007 by and making the party more broadly attractive. With the
European economy struggling, President Nicolas Sarkozy is the least
popular right-wing incumbent in the history of the Republic. There is a
sense then, in the party at least, of opportunity -- that Le Pen could propel
herself into the second round by picking up enough disgruntled swing voters.
In reality, Le Pen will likely struggle to
elicit any actual Jewish support for her party. Jewish leaders at a recent
dinner for the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, a
prominent group in the country, made clear that a vote for Le Pen would be
unacceptable. The organization's president, Richard Prasquier, told
a reporter, "We won't vote for the Front National.".
Little in the recent polling
suggests that Le Pen has been able to expand her support beyond the mainly
white, working class core that voted for her father in great numbers in 2002,
when Jean-Marie capitalised on a fracturing of the left-wing vote to make into
a run-off against President Jacques Chirac. The latest polls also show that her
support has levelled off at around 15 percent, but that might not translate
into 15 percent of the vote come April. In 2007, Jean-Marie's support in the
polls trailed off in the final days of campaigning from similar levels.
typical Front National voter -- motivated by the themes of immigration,
security, and secularism, according to polls -- is far more likely to be male
and age 18 to 49. They are often members of the working-class or are
agricultural labourers -- FN strongholds tend to be located in smaller cities
or less-urban areas. Economic disenfranchisement is key: FN voters are less
educated and earn less or are self-employed.
Ethnic anxieties have made the party
especially popular in the far south of France, where demographics have been radically
altered in the last two generations: first by the return of the pieds-noirs, French citizens who were
Algeria's colonisers; and then by the colonised themselves, from the Maghreb
and to a lesser extent from French West Africa.
Here, Le Pen has been able to exploit fears
of rising crime and of socio-cultural change pertaining to Islam. It was in
Lyon, after all, that she made her now-infamous remark
that Islamic prayer in the street is akin to the Nazi occupation, since both
were an "occupation of territory." Even if concerns in the Jewish community
regarding security can be linked to the rise of Islam, such xenophobic language
is unlikely to attract Jewish voters, reminiscent as it is of the tone used
when they were the targets of similar attacks.
The Front National's other relative
stronghold is in the northeast. While the rest of the country saw quality of
life soar during les Trente Glorieuses
-- the boom years following the Second World War -- these areas suffered
tremendously as jobs in heavy industry were lost to Eastern Europe and the
Pacific Rim. Ardennes, for example, now ranks 84
out of 96 administrative départements
for average household income, and 92 for standard of living. It is not clear if
Le Pen's appeal to disaffected and sometimes resentful voters here will carry
over to French Jews, the majority of whom live in still-affluent Paris.