The Long Term Effects of the Paris Attacks
It has been more than three weeks since the killing of 130 innocent civilians in Paris. In the intervening time, pundits in the mainstream media have discussed how these attacks will influence everything from the war on ISIS to the relationship between Russia and the West, in addition to American, and even Canadian, domestic politics. However, there is one particular area that is not getting much attention, and that is French politics. The French people may have rallied around their president, Francois Hollande, in the face of the attacks, yet he is deeply unpopular over a number of issues and his future in politics is uncertain.
In the spring of 2017, the French will have a presidential election. Most commentators predicted that it would be another typical French election with a centre-left candidate from the Socialist Party facing a centre-right candidate from the Republicans. It looked like it may even have been a rematch of the previous election pitting Hollande (Socialist) against Nicolas Sarkozy (Republican). However, a new force in French politics, the National Front, has been on the rise for a number of years. The National Front is of the extreme right and is scary in a number of ways.
Firstly, it is committed to Eurosceptisism, that is to say, it wants to take France out of the European Union. This has dangerous consequences as France was a founding member of the European Union and the euro currency, and is an integral member of both at the moment. It would risk destroying the entire European project because it would set a precedent that the E.U. and euro are clubs you can simply enter and exit, and not a future nation state with all members working towards an ever-closer union. The National Front is also anti-American and pro-Putin, and if they took government they could seriously disrupt NATO by pulling France out of it.
The National Front also preaches what it considers “Law and Order” by advocating for much stiffer prison sentences and the return of the death penalty.
Perhaps most worrying is the anti-Muslim rhetoric from the National Front. It believes in halting, or at least severely reducing immigration from non-European countries, in the name of maintaining some notion of a white, Christian nation. They frequently claim that Muslims are overrunning the country in an effort to scare people into supporting them. They also state that the increase of crime seen in France is all due to the rise of Muslims immigrating into the country. The party also has some anti-Semitism boiling within it, as its former leader denied the Holocaust and stated that the Nazi occupation of France was not entirely a bad thing.
So, what does all this have to do with the Paris terror attacks? In the wake of such brutal acts of violence committed by those inspired by extreme Islam, it would not be surprising if support for an anti-Muslim party increased. Indeed, the rise of these far-right, anti-immigrant parties has been happening all over Europe, from the Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, and even in the United Kingdom where the U.K. Independence Party, which is admittedly much more moderate, captured 13% of the vote, the 3rd highest share in the general election earlier this year. And of course, we have seen the same anti-Immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric coming out of the mouths of leading Republican presidential contenders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson.