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We are not extreme right: France's National Front

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We are not extreme right: France's National Front
Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine Le Pen, who insists the National Front are not "extreme right". Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP
15:44 CEST+02:00
Marine Le Pen, leader of France's National Front party will consider the somewhat extreme measure of suing journalists who refer to the party as “extreme right”. The Local speaks to an expert on the far-right who says she may have a point, but is making a big mistake.

France's National Front (FN) said it would consider legal action in a bid to force the country's media to stop referring to the anti-immigration, anti-EU party as "extreme right."

Party leader Marine Le Pen claims it is unfair for the party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen to be lumped together with the likes of Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik and Greece's New Dawn party.

"We are absolutely not a party of the right, those who think that are making a total analytical error," Marine Le Pen said Thursday.

"I'm considering seeking a judicial ruling that the description 'extreme right' is a pejorative term deliberately used to damage the Front National.

"For journalists to label the FN like this is unethical, biased and intellectually sloppy."

Specialist on the far-right Jean-Yves Camus from IRIS (Institute de Relations Internationales et Stratigeques) tells The Local Le Pen is making a big mistake but she may have a point.

“The National Front has its roots in the extreme right. It is the party that stands furthest to the right on the spectrum of French politics. It cannot be lumped together with the fringe movements on the far right like Jeunes Nationalistes (Nationalist Youth), who are militants.

“The National Front is not the same party it used to be in the 1970s. It has changed somewhat. I don’t think Marine Le Pen would object to being called ‘far-right’, but she objects to extreme right precisely because it has the word ‘extreme’ in it and she says they are mainstream.

“She’s making a big mistake. Journalists and writers are entitled to write what they want without being subject to harassment. She has complained many times about all the legal cases against the Front National but she is going down the same route herself.

Camus stresses, however, that France’s National Front cannot be lumped in the same bag as other “extreme right” parties in Europe, as is often the case.

“The National Front is not like Golden Dawn in Greece, which is just a bunch of thugs. Nor is it like the BNP in Britain, which is certainly extreme right, as can be seen in its invoking of conspiracy theories, and so on. You certainly cannot lump those two parties in the same bag," he said.

Since taking over as the head of the FN in 2011, Marine Le Pen has attempted to reposition a party whose image has long been closely linked to the personality of her father, target of a string of convictions for incitement to racial hatred and holocaust denial.

Le Pen, herself looks set to be prosecuted in France for remarks she made likening Islamic prayers to the Nazi occupation, after the European Parliament stripped her of her immunity as a lawmaker earlier this year.

Under her leadership, the FN has expelled overtly racist activists and selected a number of ethnic minority candidates for local elections.

Such steps have been dismissed as window dressing by anti-racism groups, but the FN's appeal does appear to be broadening.

However, Le Pen has been accused of hypocrisy with her legal threat against the media.

“Prosecuting journalists for the content of their analysis is already in itself an element that helps to qualify a party as extremist,” said political columnist for France Inter, Thomas Legrand, who added that "it is not tactical self-affirmations of party leaders that determines their real position.”

For the head of the Socialist Party, Harlem Désir, there is no doubt.

"This party is the heir of the classic extreme right. Its ideology is still that of an enemy of the French Republic.," Desir said.

Local elections threat

Recent polls have suggested the party will take around 16 percent of first round votes in municipal elections next March, and the mainstream right is embroiled in a debate over whether it should contemplate a degree of electoral cooperation with the FN, previously considered taboo.

Le Pen Senior recently dismissed suggestions the FN was becoming more moderate under his daughter's leadership.

"Nothing has changed, even if Marine is a young woman and I'm an old campaigner," he said.

"The political line of the movement has not moved. Extreme clarity, extreme courage - that is the only extremism I see in us."

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