France and Europe were left shaken and confused after Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party won 18% of the vote in last week’s first round presidential election.
President Nicholas Sarkozy did better than polls had predicted, but the widely anticipated first place win of Socialist Francois Hollande was still a humiliation to the hyperkinetic Sarkozy who sought to wrap himself in the French flag. Polls show Hollande, a bland, unassuming figure, continues to lead Sarkozy in the final election to be held on 6 May.
The National Front is no longer on the ballot in the final two-man race, but it remains the hulking 800-kg gorilla in the ornate drawing room of French politics.
As Marine Le Pen said, French politics will never be the same again.
Just who and what does the National Front represent? I spent a day in the late 1980’s interviewing party founder and father of Marine, Jean Marie LePen, and have followed the LePens ever since.