Sarkozy’s racist legacy

Graham Murray reports on the ‘normalisation’ of extreme Right politics in France.

The defeat of Nicolas Sarkozy on 6 May 2012 should be celebrated as a victory against Islamophobia and racism. No other French presidential candidate from ‘mainstream’ politics tapped into the ideology of the far Right to the extent that Sarkozy did. In an unashamed bid to seduce Front National (FN) voters for whom he expressed his ‘respect’, Sarkozy effectively became the Petri dish of ‘Lepenism’ The discourse of the FN, once anathema to so-called French ‘republican values’ was ‘normalised’ under Sarkozy’s watch: from immigration to opposing the right to vote for immigrants, from France’s Christian roots to Halal meat and, of course, the dreaded burqa, Sarkozy – himself the son of an immigrant – borrowed the divisive and hateful discourse of the extreme Right and somehow believed that his fake ‘Lepenism’ would pass off for the genuine item. Ultimately, however, Sarkozy’s achievement was to give credibility to the ideology of the far Right….

The French Left are still clinking their champagne glasses, but it is the FN that may, in the long run, be the true winners of this election. Their game plan is simple: let Hollande beat Sarkozy, let the UMP quarrel and splinter, let the crisis bring down Hollande and then prepare for power. The idea would have sounded far-fetched in a different époque, but this is post 9/11, economically depressed 2012 when even Greece’s extreme Right Golden Dawn party is able to attract seven per cent of the vote and openly Islamophobic political parties such as Geert Wilders’ Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV), are on the rise throughout Europe. Thanks to Sarkozy, Marine Le Pen’s plans to take power one day appear to be alarmingly realistic.

Institute of Race Relations, 8 June 2012