How is the Migration Crisis Linked to the Success of the Rassemblement National?
The importance of France
The rise of the far-right has been present in many European countries and it is becoming an increasing problem. Throughout the years, right-wing parties have gained more and more support. This is also the case in significant states, like France.
Located in the center of Western Europe, France has been of important influence in shaping the European identity. In terms of religion, France has been a catholic country throughout history and it has obtained a significant relation with the Church, which made it even more powerful. Furthermore, many significant events that greatly affected Europe and the world, took place in France, for example, the French Revolution and its consequences.
Nowadays, France plays a big role in world politics since it is one of the most important member states of the EU and it is one of the permanent members of the UNSC.
Nonetheless, even though the state has a considerable role in international politics, it has recognized an increase of far-right support as well. The Rassemblement National, the main far-right party in France, has become one of the biggest parties over the years. Many scholars have examined the success of far-right parties in Europe in general and found many reasons for this increase of voters. Next to rapid globalization and the economic crisis of 2008, the migration crisis has been considered one of the major causes, since during this crisis the increase of support for the party was visible.
In France, the migration crisis’ consequences, both economically and socially, have been perceptible. The results of these outcomes of the crisis made people frustrated and dissatisfied. This feeling was further strengthened after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015.
The migration crisis and the success of the Rassemblement National
Now, you may ask yourself: how has the migration crisis been linked to the success of the Rassemblement National?
The right-wing party uses the ‘us against them‘ strategy. This strategy is part of the ‘othering’ process, which has been used by the Catholic church for years against its counterpart, Islam. This phenomenon started already when the Arabians conquered parts of Spain in 622. The aim of this strategy is to create fear and anger within the French citizens and to make a clear distinction between the French citizens and the immigrants.
The Rassemblement National has used this approach on the migration crisis to blame the decline of France, saying that national identity and sovereignty are being disrespected. Moreover, the far-right party used to warn the French citizens that these migrants would destroy their culture, steal their jobs, and other threats. Marine Le Penn, the leader of the Rassemblement National, uses this strategy also in her speeches, as she makes a clear distinction between the French citizens, who adore their country, and the migrants, who will destroy it.
This strong sentiment of hatred and fear was further exploited after the terrorist attacks in Paris on the 13th of November, 2015. The Rassemblement National linked the terrorist attacks to the migration crisis and, again, fomented a sentiment of fear. Therefore, the party tried to assimilate the fear of terrorism to the fear of immigration. In addition, in the case of France, Islamophobia plays an important role too.
This creation of fear and hatred and the use of Islamophobia was further fostered by the right-wing party’s use of social media. As it can be seen in the video she posted on Twitter to remember the Paris terrorist attacks, Marine Le Penn speaks of “le combat contre l’Islamisme” (the war against Islam). She calls Islam an ideology of death. According to Le Penn, to stop this “war”, the Western countries should make a coalition. The West against the Orient. This video can therefore be seen as an example of the Rassemblement National using this strategy.
However, even though the Rassemblement National’s use of the ‘us against them’ strategy can be compared to the ‘othering’ process used by the Church, there is no clear link between the far-right party and the Christian Religion. Unlike Salvini, Marine Le Penn does not use Christianity in her speeches. She does not quote the Bible, she does not pose with the crucifix. Thus, the party does not make a clear distinction between Christianity and Islam. They make a distinction between Islam and European and French values.
To conclude, the success of the Rassemblement National has been linked to their use of the ‘us against them’ strategy. The approach has been used by the far-right party against Islam, with the aim to create fear and hatred within the French citizens towards the incoming immigrants. After the terrorist attacks in Paris, these feelings were strengthened. Furthermore, Le Penn uses social media as a tool to exploit these sentiments. Most of her messages can be perceived as Islamophobic. I believe this strategy has been effective since there is a clear rise in voters of the Rassemblement National. In contrast with Islam, the use of Christianity by the far-right party is rather minimal. Yet, I believe that the Christian core values are rooted strongly in the European cultures. Therefore, I find the distinction made by the far-right party between the French culture and Islam culture similar to the distinction made between Christianity and Islam.