Le Pen hits back in row over Norway attacks

The leader of France's far-right National Front (FN) party hit back Sunday after mainstream parties denounced remarks by the party's founder, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, on the Norway attacks.

Le Pen hits back in row over Norway attacks
Marie-Lan Nguyen

Marine Le Pen accused left-wing parties of trying to make political capital out of the carnage in Norway.

The FN had made its position on the attacks very clear, she said, with a statement from the party issued the day after the attack condemning them as “cowardly and barbaric acts”.

“From the first hours following the Oslo tragedy, several parties of the left and affiliated associations have, in a particularly shameful and cynical way” tried to take advantage of the situation, she said Sunday.

Denouncing what she said was the “despicable behaviour” of the left, she added: “It’s hardly surprising coming from parties that have no solution to propose to the real concerns of French people.”

Her statement made no direct reference to her father’s remarks.

In a statement on his website Friday, Jean-Marie Le Pen wrote that the Norwegian government’s “naivety” was to blame for the recent mass killing there.

He accused Norway of not correctly handling immigration, one of the FN’s central policy concerns — and something that obsessed Norway’s self-confessed mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik.

Standing by his comments Saturday, he told AFP: “The murderous consequences seem to me much more linked to the naivety of the Norwegian state than the madness of this crazy person.”

France’s National Front and other European far-right parties have distanced themselves from Behring Breivik, who says he carried out the bombing and shooting attacks that killed 77 people in and near Oslo on July 22.

The Front suspended one of its members, Jacques Coutela, this week for defending Behring Breivik in a blog.

But mainstream politicians reacted to Le Pen’s latest comments with outrage on Sunday, urging Le Pen’s daughter to condemn them.

Marine Le Pen, who succeeded her father at the head of the party in January, has tried to give the party a friendlier face.

But one senior member of the ruling centre-right UMP party, Valerie Rosso-Debord said: “Behind the change of first-name at the head of the FN, the political line remains the same.”

Pierre Moscovici, a leading deputy in the opposition Socialist party, also challenged her. She “has to leave aside any ambiguity — she who has talked about de-demonising the party,” he said.

The Socialists’ leader Martine Aubry said Le Pen senior’s comments “play down the savage crimes in Norway and stain the memory of the victims.”

Behring Breivik made the issue of Muslim immigration a key element of the 1,500-page document he published shortly before carrying out the attacks.

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Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

Foreigners living in France could get the right to vote in certain elections if a newly-created bill passes through parliament.

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

The newly elected president of the National Assembly’s law commission calmly lobbed a 40-year-old electoral hand-grenade into the political discourse of the summer – and then went on holiday.

Sacha Houlié, MP for the Vienne and a member of Macron’s LREM party, filed a bill on Monday that would, if passed, allow non-EU citizens living in France to vote and stand for office in local elections. 

Under current electoral legislation, only French citizens can vote in presidential and parliamentary elections; EU citizens in France can vote in local and European elections; and non-EU citizens have no voting rights in France whatsoever. 

EU citizens can also stand for office in local elections, but are barred from becoming mayor or running for a seat in the Assembly.

Since Brexit, Britons in France have not been allowed to vote in local or  local office, any many Brits who were on their local councils had to resign because they were no longer EU citizens.

Many countries limit voting for their citizens who are out of the country, so non-EU citizens living in France often do not have the right to vote in any country.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and the far-right Rassemblement National wasted little time criticising Houlié’s bill.

Darminin’s entourage said that the minister was “firmly opposed” to the idea.

The far-right party went further. “We have crossed the limits of indecency and incomprehension of what the French are asking for,” Rassemblement national spokesperson Laurent Jacobelli told Franceinfo, echoing the sentiment of the party’s interim president Jordan Bardella, who insisted the passing of the bill would mark the, “final dispossession of the French from their country”.

Houlié said: “The right to vote for European Union nationals in local elections already exists in France. No one is surprised that a Spaniard or a Bulgarian can vote in municipal elections. But it has surprised many people that the British can no longer do it since Brexit.”

Given the current shape of the Parliament in France, it seems unlikely that the latest bill will pass. But it is far from the first time it has been on the table.

François Mitterrand had pledged during his presidential campaign in 1981 to ensure “the right to vote in municipal elections after five years of presence on French territory.”

But, in the face of opposition from the right, he backed down from this particular promise. 

In October 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, tried to move forward with an electoral plan that would have allowed non-EU citizens certain voting rights – but was blocked by his own UMP party.

François Hollande re-launched the proposal during his 2012 campaign, before quietly letting it go in the face of opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.