Mabel Berezin, an expert on European politics and associate professor of sociology at Cornell University, says the roots of the recent victories by France’s National Front lie in the impact of austerity and the failure of the left to connect with working citizens.
Berezin is the author of “Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Cultures, Security, and Populism in a New Europe” and editor of “Europe Without Borders: Re-mapping Territory, Citizenship and Identity in a Transnational Age.”
“These elections do not suggest that France is experiencing a collective turn to the right, or that Marine Le Pen is tricking French citizens into believing that she is taking her party in a more egalitarian direction.
“Rather, the elections point in two directions:
“First, the austerity regimes of the last few years since the European financial crisis hit are immiserating citizens who face high unemployment rates, particularly among youth, and for whom governments offer nothing but pro-European austerity regimes.
“Second, the failure of any genuine left voice to emerge that supports working citizens and not Europe – which is among the French almost a synonym of for global capitalism.
“Marine Le Pen is an astute and talented politician – and as such, she wants to win elections. The French National Front has been criticizing the EU since 1998. The sovereign debt crisis made salient a long-standing party issue and Marine Le Pen has run with it. She is not alone. The reason her message – and the messages of her nationalist colleagues such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands – resonates is because it is experienced as true by disenfranchised unemployed European citizens.
“On May 22, 2014 during the European Parliamentary elections it is highly likely that right parties will capture large numbers of votes. They will not need a sharp rhetorical strategy to get citizens to vote for them, they will only need to show up.”