French Populism on the Rise in This Era of Macron
Guest post by Nadia E. Nedzel
François Asselineau, born on September 14, 1957, is a controversial politician and Inspector General for finances who is campaigning for President of France.
A career civil servant in finance and international affairs from 1985-1995, he became interested in politics in 1995, joining the Rally for France Party founded by Gaullist Pasqua and Entrepreneur de Villiers. In 1995, he was appointed by then PM, Sarkozy as Director of the general delegation for economic intelligence within the Ministry of Economy and Finance. After leaving the Rally for France party, he joined two other parties, and eventually founded his own party, called the Popular Republican Union (UPR). He ran for president in 2017, and lost in the first round, having gained only .92% of the popular vote, but he’s back.
The French right is alive and well even in this era of Macron.
Asselineau identifies with neither the right nor the left, though the press tends to characterize him as far right. On his party website, he recently argued that French Fake News twists the news, always in Macron’s favor, pointing out misrepresentations of public polls about EU-mandated changes in labor rules.
He also argues for Frexit, describing himself as a Euro-Atheist, claiming that the EU is a dictatorship. In fact, his three main targets are the Eurozone, the European Union, and the United States. He has posited that both the European Union and NATO were created by a U.S. conspiracy in order to create a buffer zone against Soviet Russia. Consequently, he also believes that France should withdraw from NATO, and he is opposed to military intervention in Syria and Iraq.
Through his UPR website, Asselineau has argued for nationalization of a number of utilities, including the media company TFI (in order to create a public TV station like the BBC), as well as La Poste, Gaz de France, highways, water management, and troubled banks.
The concept that politicians operate on a spectrum, with the right on one end and the left on the other, originated with the French Revolution, when royalists sat on the right side of the National Assembly and revolutionaries on the left.
In 2017, however, 228 years later, France demonstrated the crumbling of the left-right division.
Of the four candidates who led the last French presidential election, only one came from a traditionally dominant left or right-wing political party: François Fillon was the Republican Party’s candidate, regarded as center-right, but was eliminated from the election possibly because he was embroiled in an embezzlement and nepotism scandal at the time.
The National Front’s presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, advocated far-right anti-immigration policies and far-left economic policies. Jean-Luc Melenchon, of the France Unbowed movement was to the left of Le Pen on many issues, but (like her) sympathetic towards Vladimir Putin and hostile to globalization and the European Union.
Macron, for the On the Move movement, rejected ‘left’ and ‘right’ labels altogether and was elected over Le Pen.
The cause of the rejection of ‘left-right’ labels is likely the rise of populism, where politicians claim to represent the righteous people in a moral struggle against a corrupt elite.
All three – Le Pen, Melenchon, and Asselineau – could be described as populist. During his 2017 campaign, Asselineau engaged in a fiery discourse with Le Pen: she claimed that he was arguing for a brutal leaving of the European Union, he claimed that she was an E.U. puppet. On his website, he even went so far as to call her an extreme racist.
The first round of the next presidential election in France will be held in April 2022. It should be an interesting process, as Asselineau has already come out slugging. Populism is not going away.
Laure Daussy (24 September 2014). “Mais qui est François Asselineau, le souverainiste sans page Wikipedia ?” [But who is François Asselineau, the "souverainist” without a Wikipedia page?]. Arrêt sur images. Archived from the original on 27 September 2014. Retrieved 27 August, 2018.
Dupont, Isabelle. “Un petit candidat contre la grande Europe”, Nord éclair, February 29, 2012. Retrieved on 1 October 2013, cited in the Wikipedia entry on Asselineau which was accessed on August 27, 2018
Uri Friedman, “How Populism Took Root in France”, The Atlantic, April 20, 2017, retrieved on 27 August 2018.
Échange Violent Entre François Asselineau et Marine Le Pen Après Une Question sur L’Europe, Elysee Le Grand Debate, April 6, 2017, posted on YouTube. Retrieved on 27 August, 2018
François Asselineau, Communique de Press, 29 Avril 2017, www.upr.fr, retrieved on 27 August, 2018.
« France, République Bananière : BRMTV et CNEWS Prises en Flagrant Délit de « Fake News » en truquant systématiquement en faveur de Macron les présentations visuelles des sondages », www.upr.fr, 22 August, 2018, retrieved on 27 August, 2018 (trans : France, a Banana Republic : BRMTV and CNEWS Caught Flagrently Committing Fake News in systematically twisting in Macron’s favor visual presentations of survey results)