Posts Tagged ‘Demonstration’

Graffiti protest in the 2007 French elections

Graffiti protest in the 2007 French elections

Infamous leader of the French far right, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has predicted that Griffin’s appearance on Question Time will boost the Brit’s popularity. Certainly Le Pen’s own performance on a similar French chat show proved a great boon for him.

Before he appeared on the prime-time show L’Heure de Vérité in 1984, his Front National had seen little press coverage and was polling at 3.5 %. Afterwards, they went on to score 11% in the European elections that year.

No wonder Le Pen called his TV stint “the hour that changed everything” and said the BNP “could now enjoy a surge in support” in an interview with the Evening Standard this week.

And his heure de vérité in 1984 was only the start. Le Pen went on to shock the French nation by coming second in the French presidential race in 2002, beating the former prime minister Lionel Jospin.

So far, so bad. But if we’re truly to understand the impact that Griffin’s Question Time performance might have, we need to look at what happened after Le Pen’s first round success in the 2002 elections.

Le Pen was totally trounced in the second round, winning 18% of the vote to Jacques Chirac’s 82%. Determined to stop the nightmare scenario of Le Pen Le Président, even voters who despised Chirac were prepared to, as the slogan ran: “Vote for the criminal, not the fascist.” (Chirac was suspected of corruption at that time).

More interesting was the “Le Pen effect” in the 2007 elections. There was an exceptional turnout of 84%, with 8 million more people voting than in 2002.  As a French friend of mine explained at the time:

I’m not particularly enamoured with either Sarko or Ségo but I’m determined to exercise my right to vote. We can’t have another embarrassment like 2002.

Success can be a double-edged sword for extreme parties. More people voting for them – or perceived to be voting for them – will lead more moderate voters who had been wavering to cast their ballots against them.

In Le Pen’s case 2002 also proved to be his peak. A million fewer people voted for him in 2007  and he came fourth in the first round. He’s now back on the fringes where he belongs.

So perhaps we can hope that the BNP’s success in the recent European elections and Griffin’s raised profile thanks to Question Time will actually be his downfall in the long term. Perhaps the spectre of an emboldened BNP will push more of us to vote than the mere 61% who turn out last time.


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In 2006-07, I was working as a French language assistant in Sète, a smallish fishing port on the Mediterranean cost. It’s a beautiful place and I’d definitely recommend visiting it if you’re ever in the south of France.

I had a great year and was lucky enough to experience that special French event – la grève (the strike) not once, but five times.

A couple of times the teachers themselves went on strike. One time it was over working hours. The government had plans to get rid of a system whereby certain professeurs could work fewer hours in the classroom to compensate for time spent preparing for lessons.  

When I first heard about the strike, I was tempted to think it had been called as a chance to do some Christmas shopping. It was on 18th December, after all.

But I remember the heated discussion that went on in the staff room. On one side there were the teachers bent on striking to defend their rights. On the other were those who felt this was an unnecessary strike, that the pupils would suffer and that there were more important battles to be fought.

It was thrilling to witness people so passionate about politics when in England I’ve only ever encountered apathy.

Of course, it also helped that the strike meant I could have the day off. Even if some teachers were coming in, I was told that most pupils would use it as an excuse to take a day off.


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French workers demonstrate against the conservative government’s economic policy that would impact salaries, benefits and pensions. The strike effected the transport industry.

Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos

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They’re at it again, les Français. Forget le football, we all know striking is France’s national sport and today saw a fine example of the game.

A staggering 2.5 million workers took to the streets to protest against Sarkozy’s handling of the economic crisis.

Unions are demanding that he do more to protect employment, public services and le pouvoir d’achat (the buying power of the average man).

Schools closed. Transport came to almost a complete halt with only 30% of trains running.

And yet despite all the disruption brought by this “jeudi noir” (as the French press are calling it), public opinion is behind the strikers.

According to a poll conducted for the weekly news magazine L’Express, 69% of the French public think their action is “justifié”. (Get hold of this pole here.)

People throughout France feel that President Bling, as Sarkozy is known for his love of Rolex watches, is not doing enough to help the ordinary man.

They sympathize with the strikers cry of “on ne veut pas payer pour les banquiers!” (We don’t want to pay for the bankers). They agree with FO union leader Jean-Claude Mailly’s characterisation of the French government as “irrésponsable”.

With the President not prepared to listen, things turned nasty. This evening, there are reports of youths throwing bottles and lighting fires on the streets of Paris. (See BBC.)

This isn’t your average strike, an average grève. This is revolt.

To find out more about the origins of this strike see this article in Le Monde. Or if you’re after an  explanation in English this article in Der Spiegel is good.

Le Nouvel Observateur has an hour by hour break down of the event and videos of the days events accross France.

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