Amid the aftermath of massacre in Paris on Saturday, some French politicians have decided to politicize the tragedy in time for December’s regional elections.
The main culprit: Marine le Pen and the National Front, the far-right party she leads. In the last three weeks of the campaign season, Le Pen and her party has called for the immediate halt of all intake of migrants in France in a statement released following the massacre. These statements also echo similar ones from other far-right groups and politicians, whether it be from Geert Wilders and the Dutch Party for Freedom, or from Hungarian premier Viktor Orban.
This comes as the National Front is gaining in popularity and power in France. Support for Le Pen and her party has grown, especially in industrial and refugee-laden regions like Nord-Pas-De-Calais; politicizing the massacre would make perfect political sense. Furthermore, the party has succeeded in changing the political culture of France, forcing the political center to the right.
Le Pen also has presidential ambitions. After coming in third in the 2012 elections, Le Pen’s popularity has only grown since then. With the growing unpopularity of the Socialist-led government, Le Pen could stand to seize an opportunity to become a more serious contender for the presidency.
This was not the first time the National Front has utilized an act of terrorism for political gain. After the 1995 train bombings, former National Front leader and Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie le Pen received a spike in popularity. However, both he and the party couldn’t translate that popularity into electoral results.
However, it seems unlikely that the same situation would play out. Since taking over the party and ousting her father from leadership, Marine Le Pen had painstakingly made the party more mainstream, both by using the media to her advantage, and by bringing the party – which is still very extreme – more to the center.
Even though the National Front and its supporters favor this policy, the Socialist-led government is continuing with its plans to take in refugees.