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22nd Jan 2022

French far right at 'gates of power'

  • Paris: Valls warned about the rise of the French far-right (Photo: Paul S.)

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday (7 September) warned that the far-right is “at the gates of power”, as the ruling left struggles under its unpopular president, Francois Hollande.

"In France, the extreme right of Marine Le Pen is at the gates of power,” he said, speaking at an annual gathering of fellow left-wing politicians in Bologna, Italy.

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The warning followed an IFOP opinion poll over the weekend, which suggests Marine Le Pen would beat all her rivals by winning the first round of a presidential election.

It also comes on the heels of an unflattering memoir by Hollande’s former partner Valerie Trierweiler, who describes the 60-year old French president as an opportunist and as someone who spurns the poor.

But under Le Pen the weakest would be the first to suffer, said Valls, “and it will also be a terrible, perhaps fatal, blow to Europe".

Countering the far-right momentum across Europe requires socialist governments and politicians to act and speak differently “in order to be listened to and to be heard,” he said.

Although Le Pen failed to muster enough MEPs to create her own far-right faction in the European Parliament, her precipitous rise in France over the past year has shocked many on the left.

Le Pen’s support base has increased, in part, due to France’s stagnating economy, high unemployment, immigration issues, and a general feeling of discontentment with the ruling government.

The EU's second largest economy registered zero growth in the first six months of this year. And as of July, the number of people seeking work in France rose to a new record at over 3.4 million.

Meanwhile in the port city of Calais, a far-right rally on Sunday demanded stranded migrants seeking better lives in the UK be deported.

In a bid to tackle the failing economy, Hollande authorised Valls earlier this month to present a “general policy statement” or new work programme to the parliament, which is set to hold a vote of confidence next week.

The new work programme includes a so-called Responsibility Pact that offers tax breaks to businesses in exchange for jobs. It also calls for cuts in public spending.

Valls said he was sure the majority in the parliament would support the new programme.

"There can be no other way. If the majority isn't there on that occasion, it would be finished," he told French media in August following a cabinet reshuffle.

Hollande at the time appointed a 36-year-old ex-Rothschild banker as economy minister in an emergency reshuffle in what has been described as a last ditch effort under his presidency to reverse the country’s fortunes.

He made the move after two of his ministers quit in protest against austerity cuts.

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