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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Could the far-right win in other European countries?
The shock election success of far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen has led other European countries to ask; could it happen here?

Mr Le Pen came second in the first round of the presidential vote on Sunday, beating off the socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, to reach the final run-off against the conservative incumbent, Jacques Chirac.

Now questions are being asked whether similar results could happen in the rest of Europe.

Two years ago, in Austria, the far-right Freedom Party led by Joerg Haider entered government.

Last year the left-of-centre government in Italy was voted out of office.

The far-right has even scored success in traditionally liberal societies like Denmark and the Netherlands.

Reasons given have included a perceived link between crime and immigrants, anxieties about job security as well as disgust at political corruption.

What do you think? Could the far-right win in other European countries?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I am afraid to say that as long as we have politicians ridiculously saying that people should not celebrate St George's day because it might offend people that aren't nationals, then yes, far right will come in!!
Jo, London, England

Le Pen got all the votes he would ever get in that first round

Graeme, England
Le Pen got all the votes he would ever get in that first round. The simple fact that the centrist and leftist votes were shared amongst all the other candidates produced this freak result. If Britain voted for its head of state (which it should) then a similar situation could develop if too many similar candidates stood for office allowing a single far-right candidate to slip through.
Graeme, England

I believe that people are really missing the point of the vote for Le Pen, and to constantly dismiss votes for the far right as fascist and Nazi and subsequently to label voters fascists/Nazis and not to debate the key issues of immigration, sovereignty, religion and tradition will mean not to combat it properly.
Roger Kite, London

Politicians have skirted around issues for so long that the electorate no longer know what government is doing. This dumbing down of government in the vague hope that soundbites will get people voting only makes the electorate disenfranchised and ignorant.
Jonathan, London, UK

Why is it everyone assumes multiculturalism is a good thing? All we get for this is race riots and the usual garbage concerning how this somehow makes the domestic population more intelligent. In practical terms, all I see are more foreign takeaways.
Saber, Derby, UK

The underclass in the UK have no one to turn to. Labour is now a Tory party in drag. The difference between the Far Right and Far Left is tiny. Both seek to overthrow the status quo and replace it with something people want with immediate results.
John Maynard, UK

Though we might find Mr. Le Pen's views offensive (and most of us do) we must not forget that he is standing as a candidate in a democracy. It is wrong for Mr Blah to criticise Mr Le Penn just because he dislikes his views.
Sue and Jane, Sydney / Australia

His party allows these nationalist individuals to have an outlet

Graham, Henley, England
It is important to have such parties as Le Pen's, they play a vital role. I myself do not agree with their views or policies. I believe that everyone should have the same opportunities and be treated with equal respect. The reason I recognise the need for his party, is that without it you would have anarchy. His party allows these nationalist individuals to have an outlet. Democracy ensures that their behaviour is strictly regulated within certain principles of what is socially acceptable. Without such parties you would soon have underground movements doing even more damage and harm.
Graham, Henley, England

Am I understanding this question correctly? Le Pen is seen as a threat to freedom so the answer is to ban him, or ban people from voting for him, or ignoring a democratic vote for him. It is hard to see a greater violation of freedom than to prevent an adult voter from voting for the person they believe represents their viewpoint.
Willy Davidson, UK

I believe that Economic and Monetary Union is in part responsible for the rise in nationalism and far right groups throughout Europe. Most people living within the Euro-Zone were never given the opportunity in a referendum to endorse or reject the Euro. The Euro has diminished their national identity and caused them to lose sovereignty over their economy. We are fortunate the Government in the UK intends to give us the chance to vote in a referendum, or we could be next.
Graham Childs, Henley-on-Thames, UK

Sad though it may be, the right could grow in popularity steadily over years to come. Here, they're already up in the votes from the previous 1992 election. The problem is not apathy. Voters will not vote so long as a culture of corrupt, "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" type politics is in power. Until politicians start addressing the needs of real people and actually get in touch with the real world, particularly for local councillors, they can't moan when voters turn against them. Disillusioned left voters are easy pickings for the right. As democracy allows, until things change I just won't vote.
Andy, Nottm., UK

I hope the rest of Western Europe does not see immigrants as a hindrance to their success

Jon, Morristown, NJ USA
I have to say that France's far right vote is not much of a surprise if one looks at their efforts to "protect" their culture over the years from not only the US and immigrant groups but the EU as well. Some people still don't understand that the more diverse your culture is the more flexible and robust your nation will be. The West's population is not growing and in some cases dwindling. I hope the rest of Western Europe does not see immigrants as a hindrance to their success but as a breath of fresh air and blood. Allowing more immigrants in and accepting what they bring to the table is key to France's and Europe's long term success. Fighting for a return to the good old days when France was once dominated by a single distinct culture is harmful to her future success, growth and place in world politics.
Jon, Morristown, NJ USA

Le Pen tops Jospin and the European and French Leftist elites have a fit. Amazing. Why is the "Far Right" in France considered more a threat to liberty than the "Far Left?" They're both rotten. If Le Pen is tainted by Nazi/Fascist ideology, why aren't the Communist/Marxist/ Trotskyite parties in France tainted by the regimes these ideologies foisted on Russia, China, East Germany, etc.?
Ned, California USA

France is an extreme case, however, the frustration that many people feel at their government's inability to address their concerns, is typical across Europe. Local government in the UK is a farce, while at national level, politicians busy themselves pandering to minorities. People voted for Le Pen as a protest against the complacent smugness of the main parties. It's a shot across the bows. Rather than lambasting Le Pen, Tony Blair should ask himself "why did it happen"?
Mark, UK

To Mark, USA: I have to disagree with you. Although the UK is having problems with its social services, overall western Europeans enjoy better public transportation and more accessable health care, two areas where the US fails. They also have the luxury of not having their votes intercepted by the Electoral College, the worst mistake our founding fathers made. I don't think this vote is because of bureaucracy, as you say; I think plain and simple, it is because Chirac is too "Paris-centric" and failed to address concerns of a large proportion of the population. They are now using their votes to be heard. With any luck Chirac will respond in a way that they find sufficient.
Jennifer Ethington, USA

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way European governance works

Mark, USA
The underlying frustration that gave rise to this latest expression of rebellion in France and elsewhere shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way European governance works. It apparently fails to meet the needs of a significant segment of the population to pursue a happy fulfilling life. The heavy handed bureaucracy that Europeans are accustomed to and accept allows the individual only three options; escape, resignation, or revolt. When enough like-minded individuals who choose this third option unite, the result can be a dangerously explosive mixture for an entire society. But failure to recognize and deal with the underlying cause makes its manifestation over and over again inevitable. And to dismiss it as a mere aberration of a particular segment of a particular country at a particular time is to ignore the clear warning signals. And that is the most dangerous course of all.
Mark, USA

It is funny that many of the anti-fascist/Le Pen posters seem to feel it is OK for them to dictate what people should think, feel and be allowed to say and vote for. Such postings a real example of how I define Fascism!
Noel, London, UK

Unfortunately, in the contemporary society, there will be another trend in growth toward right wing politics

Stuart, Wales
Unfortunately, in the contemporary society, there will be another trend in growth toward right wing politics. The issues that caused 'modernised' men and women to vote for Nazism (in perspective though it was only a fifth of the population who actually joined the party), are again appearing. Once again dull ineffectual liberal politics are only helping to fan the flames. Fascism as a concept is just as radical as communism, and both have been guilty of incredible crimes. However, the main difference being that the Left have Marx et al who have written rationally about their ideas on social thought etc, whereas the Right have far less support from theorists (with the exception of Herder and Fichter). Fascism as a concept, apart from meaning all things to all men, is also a radical way of getting things done.
Stuart, Wales

The Right is the natural politics of a nation state. Everyone wants what is best for them and their country, and as patriotism rises, so does the support of the Right wing. It is essential that Far-Right groups do not get massive support, however, as that will result in a situation like in the run up to WW2, with persecution and prejudice running wild. However, I believe that France would be better off with a Far-Right President than an incumbent one. Or perhaps they should bring back their monarchy?...
Chris Hawes, Great Britain

Inevitably, French politics will not be the same for some time. Public opinion has been changing for quite some time and seems to be in the most part a response to the asylum crisis. The French society, like ours, is very open to other cultures and that is something to be proud of. The recent swing to the right does not mean that the acceptance of other cultures has diminished but rather that the French public are responding through the only possible channel to state that they want to see some changes made to the immigration system. France has a broadly similar problem as the UK when it comes to the asylum system, but both governments are working towards a fair and just system. I think we can be quite certain that this would never happen in England.
Ben, UK

This climate of fear of change is fertile ground for extremism to flourish and even spread

Jacob, Canada
There is nothing new about this extremist phenomenon - this is all about fear of change. Look all around, and you will see this fear of change throughout the world today in all facets of life. There are those in society who want to take advantage of this fear of change by whipping up sentiments in the populace to further their own agendas. It is easy to deflect responsibility and cast blame on someone else. They pander to the false belief that returning to the glory of the past, or at the very least maintaining the status quo will solve all their problems. There are no short-term solutions to any of these perceived "problems", and they all know it fully well. But so long as there are people willing to hand over their powers to others, they will attempt to coerce them by any means possible. So this climate of fear of change is fertile ground for extremism to flourish and even spread.
Jacob, Canada

Stop barking at the French, they have done what many others did during an election, they voted against a party that they felt was not acting in their own best interests. Beside come the next election a new party might be voted into office, for the same reasons.
Vickie Reeves, USA

Now there is a lesson to be learnt for current governing parties in the rest of EU nations other than France. Mr. Le Pen has won the second place in the first round just because the French people wanted it that way. There is no mystery about it. If the current government is not doing their homework, people are going to look for an alternative and probably at the end there will be a price to be paid even if the election is democratic. Now is the time for an intelligent vote or afterwards France will live to regret it if a wrong decision is made.
Octavio Bustamante, Tijuana, México

If mainstream parties continue to disregard public opinion on important issues because discussing them has become taboo these things will keep happening.
Mike Taylor, UK

The reaction of both the media and the mainstream parties towards Le Pen's election success, is likely to increase the swing to the far right. They are dismissing a democratic result and in doing so are further exposing their reluctance to tackle issues such as immigration and crime in a more direct and aggressive way. Meanwhile figures around Europe such as Mr Blair are telling people how they should and shouldn't vote. This is strengthening Le Pen's claim that Europe is trying to control and shape France. Thus, Mr Blair's appeal to the French people will probably secure Le Pen a few more votes than he otherwise would have received. The social discontent in France is shared by voters in most European countries and therefore it would not surprise me to see a widespread move towards the far right.
Leon Richardson, UK

I can't believe some of the crypto-racism and total lack of ignorance by some of the posts from the UK. Damien from the UK, have you actually met anyone from anyone from an ethnic minority? Do any of you actually socialise or tried to socialise with them? Immigrants make up 2-5 percent of the population of this country contrary to what the tabloid press would have us believe, and in the majority of cases, they do try and integrate into British society. If you want a belief system in this country which practically the whole of the civilized world fought against in the 2nd World war, then vote for a far right party. If you want a party that claims the holocaust did not happen or was a mere detail of history, then vote for them. Remember, that most British people originate from immigrant stock, be it Roman, Celtic, Norman, Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Norman, French, Jewish, Afro-Caribbean, Asian or whatever. It's nothing new. In times of crisis, the people always look for easy scapegoats. Learn your own history first before jumping to conclusions.
Anonymous, UK

I believe that an extremist party could easily get a large following in Britain.

Damien, UK
I believe that an extremist party could easily get a large following in Britain. Many people in this country of English origin are extremely concerned by the large immigrant communities in places like Leicester and Bradford. People fear that the immigrants could eventually outnumber the pure English citizens - therefore, some people might decide "enough is enough, we want our country back". To handle this, I believe that there should be some restrictions, not as harsh as the extremist policies stated by Le Pen, but things along the lines of: people cannot stay in Britain unless they speak English, ethnic groups cannot demand government money to be spent on specialist schools. If all of the immigrants adapt to the traditional living style of the country, I'm sure there will be no problems. Just look at, for example, the black people from the West Indies - they fit in well with the English style of living and hence there are very few racist problems with this group of people.
Damien, UK

The far right in Europe has probably reached its absolute limits. It relies on the prejudice of small minded people who are incapable of appreciating that ring-fenced non-cultures are a thing of the past. Because of improved transport, journeys which once took weeks can now be made in hours. As a result, people can and will move around the world. Sorry folks but you can shout "France for the French", "Scotland for the Scots" or even "Wimbledon for the Wombles" until the cows come home. You're just like King Canute trying to order the tide to go back. Please grow up soon and learn to live in the world as it is.
Charles Moore, Scotland

It would be surprising if the far right didn't gain more popularity in Britain. The people are becoming more and more frustrated by the unwillingness of the present Government to address the issues which affect everyday lives - such as crime. Instead they devote their time to "important" issues such as banning fox hunting.
Guy G, Britain

Le Pen hasn't won, it's just that the other parties lost.

Paul Carney, UK
Le Pen hasn't won, it's just that the other parties lost. The vote for le Pen was a disenchanted population trying to send a message to their politicians that they didn't like what was happening. The fact that it 'backfired' only goes to show the danger of such voting tactics. In a real sense we had a similar experience when we voted the Conservative Party out of office with such a landslide victory for Tony Blair. So my personal answer to the question is 'yes', it probably could happen elsewhere.
Paul Carney, UK

Any extreme group can easily get into power. A concerted effort by such a group in vulnerable elections where there is a low turnout could easily tip the balance.
Leigh Bowden, UK

I really do not understand the view that Le Pen's popularity is 'a threat to democracy' - to me it is simply democracy in practice. He was voted for by 16% of those that did so. If the great and the good of Europe can do nothing more than wring their hands then politicians like Le Pen will enjoy increasing popularity borne of the electorate's increasing frustration with current leadership and legitimate concern for their future.
Graham, England

Extreme parties on either the right or left generally only get into power in times of severe economic/societal crisis. Hopefully the government in the UK will take the news from France and growing support for the BNP in England as a warning to start making some real changes. Poverty is a huge problem, and it is not exasperated by immigrants but by the powerful in society who are resistant to redistribute some of the nation's wealth in order to improve the standard of living for those at the bottom. Far-right group parties know this, they simply use the frustration of poverty to scapegoat minorities. They are not politicians, they are racists plain and simple.
Catherine, UK

I do believe that this is a one-off incident which will not (or should not) be repeated in other European countries

James, UK
This episode serves as a 'wake up' call for apathetic voters who have traditionally either made an election protest vote or not voted at all. It all goes to show that not making an informed decision about which party or individual to vote for can have shocking consequences. However, I do believe that this is a one-off incident which will not (or should not) be repeated in other European countries now that the startling result of a combination of low turnout and protest voting are clear for all to see. One question still remain though. If so many people in France have come out to protest at the victory of Jean-Marie Le Pen, why could they not be bothered to turn up to vote?
James, UK

Its only a matter of time before Britain and all western countries get a le Pen;- as this problem with immigrants from the third world has gone too far. Britain has not been invaded for over a thousand years, until the 1960's when so many people from third world countries began their 'silent invasion' of Europe For the most part, they don't come to integrate but to colonize, and the quicker the leaders recognize this the better, otherwise you will see a disappearance of European culture. If the situation was reversed and you went to China or India, you wouldn't see the governments there bend over backwards and worry about whether or not there were enough churches or ratios of minority groups in television dramas etc. We must preserve our identity and our heritage - it is just as important to us as theirs is to them. So yes, when Europe is threatened with losing all of this, there will be many le Pen's willing to fight to restore what is ours by right.
Kay, Canada

Whilst this is indeed a concerning situation, two things must be remembered. Firstly, Le Pen only scored a marginally higher percentage of the vote than he did in previous elections and it was only the seven way split of the left that pushed him to the fore. Secondly, it is clear he will get absolutely destroyed in the second round poll and will probably not get much higher than his current 17%. Thus, whilst it is certainly worrying, it does not necessarily represent the great catastrophe that media coverage seems to suggest.
John Gibson, UK

Leah of England is absolutely correct. It is the issues that matter, not the individual candidate. There is a serious lack of debate in most European nations on issues that affect ordinary citizens. People are being left out and they resent it. Why not leave it to French citizens to vote on crucial issues such as immigration? They must have a voice in the shaping of their nation, that's what democracy is all about. Instead of name calling and emotional reporting, the media should be concentrating on the issues and present all sides OBJECTIVELY. Without fair debate, there is no democracy.
Richard, US

Perhaps if the media did not cry 'racist/fascist' every time that an attempt to hold a meaningful discussion regarding the issues that matter most to the electorate; eg immigration, law and order, identity cards, age of legal responsibility, right to trial and so on, then perhaps we could get somewhere. It is time the general public realised the difference between prejudice and debate.
Leah, England

They don't necessarily want fascism but they do want something done about immigration.

Alun, England
In voting for Le Pen, the French are simply demonstrating their frustration at what they see as a dilution of their country's identity by a tidal wave of ethnic immigration. They don't necessarily want fascism but they do want something done about immigration. The problem of immigration (usually by asylum seekers) is EC wide and of course other countries are feeling the same towards the vast numbers of (mostly) economic migrants flooding in. Thus, there will be the same aberrant voting from time to time.

The way to stop the fascist getting in is by toughening up EC asylum policy. If asylum seekers could only apply to a country neighbouring his/her own, there would be no reason to travel thousands of miles to reach Europe. They would simply be repatriated. Asylum is meant to mean 'refuge'. It should not be allowed to be used as a vehicle for economic relocation. If voters see the tide turning, they will be less inclined to jump on the fascist bandwagon.
Alun, England

The main danger of the far right is that they are much more extreme than their public utterances suggest. They gain much of their support because mainstream politicians vilify all their policies including ones that a lot of voters find attractive. Le Pen campaigns for the deporting of illegal immigrants and locking criminals up. Plainly, a lot of French voters do not find these policies unacceptable.
Patrick Stevens, UK

I was surprised not just by Le Pen, but by the number of votes for all the extremist parties, both left and right. You know you have voter unhappiness when people in large numbers vote for authoritarianism, whether left or right. The French main political parties need to get in touch with the people.
Malcolm T. , Atlanta, USA

Perhaps what this tells us is that we should compromise on some of our democracy and pass a law that demands everyone votes

Gary Lister, UK
We all hope in Europe we live in a free & democratic system. That also means having choice to vote or not. However, we have all seen how low turnouts at polling can cause significant upsets. Perhaps what this tells us is that we should compromise on some of our democracy and pass a law that demands everyone votes with no exceptions. That way we will at least get a better representation of people's feelings.
Gary Lister, UK

Let's be clear : there isn't any rise of the far-right in France. Le Pen being in the second round doesn't mean he is likely to be elected. Only 2% of the total population (including those who didn't vote) did actually vote for this man. It's just a democratic accident.
Francois, France

I do not think that Chirac refusing to hold the traditional TV debate with the other candidate between the two rounds is going to do any good to democracy.
Zee, UK

The far right see the problem of immigration as a matter of racial survival. Socially deprived people naturally perceive investment in growing immigrant communities as a threat to their way of living. Enoch Powell was a distinguished and intelligent politician but he was portrayed as a racist bigot. Mainstream politicians refused to take him seriously and he went away. The extremists will not simply disappear - instead they will continue to recruit from a portion of society that feels increasingly disenfranchised. Unless something is done to both ensure and demonstrate that the indigenous population is not disadvantaged then the far right will have a growing supply of people willing to pledge their votes.
James, England

Great news for Chirac! Guarantees him 5 more years. Got to feel sorry for left-leaning voters with no way to turn.
Simon, UK

The French were those who were most eager to "punish" Austria with the so-called EU-sanctions some one and a half year ago. So, where are the voices of the EU now? It seems they have suddenly lost their courage. After all, a small country like Austria is much easier to suppress than the big France!
Alexandra, Austria

What a choice the French voters have! A fascist, racist loony or a proven incompetent bureaucrat. And we call this democracy? If I were French, I'd be heading for the Chunnel as fast as possible.
Jacko, Canada

Whilst the success of Le Pen is to be regretted it is a warning to all democrats that they need to start listening to the electorate

David, UK
Whilst the success of Le Pen is to be regretted it is a warning to all democrats that they need to start listening to the electorate. Le Pen has played on the issue of immigration because other politicians do not want to. They prefer to have no debate...we must debate this. Otherwise we could be looking at success of the BNP. Yes I know it seems far fetched but who would have said a week ago that le Pen would seriously be challenging for the French presidency
David, UK

I would like to remind politicians that my taxes pay your salary, not the other way around. You are therefore answerable to me and my fellow taxpayers and voters. If you refuse to listen to me, and address my concerns, then the likes of Le Pen will become increasingly powerful. As others have said, this is not because people agree with him, but because he is a closer match to their views than the allegedly mainstream options. New Labour take note - this will happen in the UK if the ordinary voter continues to feel ignored.
Dave Tankard, UK

Could the far right win in other European countries? The answer is clearly "yes," and we have already begun to see its first manifestations, especially in Denmark and in The Netherlands. I have no doubt at all that the French will vote massively for Mr Chirac in the 2nd round on May 5th. It is then that the real problems will begin.
Ian Simpson, France

I still remember Robert Heinlein's "Future History" series in which Nehemiah Scudder gained the support of a small section of the electorate and, in an election with a turnout of around 5%, became president and turned the United States into a theocracy. By the way. I would never dream of supporting someone like Bush but it is insulting to compare Bush with Le Pen. Bush is, whatever you think of him, a believer in Democracy. The last US Presidential election may have been flawed but Bush (and Gore for that matter) had a lot more support than Le Pen, Jospin, or even Chirac.
Alcuin, UK

The extreme right is making a forceful comeback, and most Europeans are simply apathetic about it

Daniel Perdurant, Greece/USA
Could the far right win elsewhere? It actually did happen with Waldheim and Haider in Austria, it happened with Italy's coalition government, it happened in regional elections in Germany--and the far-right is gaining in the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and other countries. A brand new poll suggests that more than 12% of Greek voters would cast a ballot in favour of the extreme right (an unprecedented number). Also look at the environment: Skinheads roam the streets in Russia and attack immigrants, synagogues are being torched in France and Belgium, Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials are being desecrated in Slovakia, Greece, and other countries throughout Europe... The extreme right is making a forceful comeback, and most Europeans are simply apathetic about it.
Daniel Perdurant, Greece/USA

Is anyone really surprised? I'm not! If the governments of Western Europe insist on basing their politics on spin and political correctness (stand up Mr. Blair) rather than what the people want you are going to inevitably develop a feeling of apathy. Western Europe is being overrun by bogus asylum seekers, many of whom are resorting to crime. As a result the average law-abiding citizen is going to vote for those parties which promise to do something about it, not stand by and watch the situation spiral out of control because of overwrought political correctness.
ER, N. Ireland

Within the European Context, I think the far right will increasingly win electoral support in other countries like Switzerland, Russia, Italy etc not so much because of their populist appeal but rather because of the weakness of established moderate / conservative or reform minded parties. Hence, where established politicians fail to explain the societal benefits of immigration and free trade, immigrants will wrongly (but easily) be identified with al evils of this world.
Walter Onubogu, Switzerland

Why is it that when someone running for public office is not PC, there is such a big outcry in the popular media?

Richard, Michigan USA
Why is it that when someone running for public office is not PC, there is such a big outcry in the popular media? This would not be a big story if a PC, pro-globalization candidate received the votes Le Pen has. And who am I to tell the French how to vote? I wish them much success with whoever they choose. Vive la France!
Richard, Michigan USA

It's ugly but not surprising at all to see a reaching for a more extreme alternative when moderation fails. The West is in the grip of elitist left wing culture that transcends the ability of the average citizen to control. Immigration has irreparably changed the cultural character of western nations, and was accomplished without the consent of the governed. Issues like Gay Rights, Family Law, Capital Punishment have all been decided either by an activist judiciary, or by legislatures in mid term without the benefit of going to the voters for consent.
John Allan, Canada

All the passion and idealism has been sucked out of politics by the centre left and centre right trying to please the focus groups and business interests (In the UK as well as in France). The only crude tools at the electorates' disposal to protest at this banalisation are to either abstain -which politicians are happy to interpret to their own ends: "the electorate are comfortable and don't see the need to change"- or to vote for someone thoroughly unpleasant.
John L, UK

Yes, they will be winning - slowly but surely. Incompetence and "ostrich policy" - (we do not mention it, therefore it does not exist) - of many European governments to this hot and sensitive subject gives the extremists a feeding ground. But it was a large (over 16%) part of French voters who said yes to Le Pen and huge abstentions are irrelevant here - why are they so surprised now? The only way the French Government is dealing with this subject is to allow immigrants to invade the Chunnel a few times per week to get rid of them, not to face it, ignoring our pleas to block them.

All European Governments have become detached from their voters

Mike Atkinson, UK
All European Governments have become detached from their voters. Immigration and asylum seekers are a growing concern throughout Europe with the average working class voter. Fascist and National Socialist parties offer at least some solution to this growing problem. Until more main stream political parties offer similar Europe wide solutions then fascists will continue to grow in strength. Small vocal anti-fascist groups may win the day now, but unless policies change the voting masses will move more in the fascist direction.
Mike Atkinson, UK

Talk over the top, must people including the media are talking a load of rubbish.
Shaun, England

I must say having read some of the comments on this site, that I am increasingly worried about feelings in my own country let alone those on the continent. Immigration is a problem. Disenfranchised people are a problem. But what I seem to be hearing is a coded-language that wants to exclude anyone who we don't feel comfortable around. I am sure no one is talking about all the Aussies and South Africans that move to England. We must have programmes that look after all sections of our populations, including our immigrant communities, and indigenous peoples living on or below the poverty line.
Van Martin, England

The Le Pen experience probably won't take hold in the UK: thankfully, our own extreme right got a negligible share of the vote at the last election and our citizenship laws are better equipped to integrate immigrants. However, the fact the BNP probably won't see power is not a cause for celebration in itself. Even the smallest fascist vote will stoke up racial tensions further so long as Nick Griffin's ugly cohorts stir up hatred and bigotry.
Jon, UK

People will react this time and hopefully they will care enough to cast their votes for the second round

Celine, UK
I do not see the FN win the elections in France. People will react this time and hopefully they will care enough to cast their votes for the second round. But the people now protesting on the streets against the FN are those who did not vote and now complain. I do hope that everyone, people and politicians will learn their lesson from this event.
Celine, UK

I find it amusing that in this predictable uproar over Le Pen's victory few realize what the missing common denominator has always been....a legitimate female candidate...odd how in 2002 that the world is still so patriarchal in religion and politics.

Too right it could happen here! There are far too many people in our country who are woefully ignorant of the true situation regarding the cost of immigration, the effect this has on jobs etc. Their ignorance gives rise to fear and blame, whipped up to the point of near hysteria by the tabloid press, and capitalised upon by parties of the right, some relatively harmless, and other far more disturbing.
Peter, UK

There are no countries in the EU where the conditions are sufficiently dire to allow this to happen

Paul T Horgan, UK
Extremism is the resort of desperate populations when mainstream politics fail to deliver. There are no countries in the EU where the conditions are sufficiently dire to allow this to happen. The vote for Le Pen makes good headlines but has to be viewed in the context of the French electoral system. The first round permits a protest vote to be cast without being the final decider. The French were protesting at the distant and moribund nature of their politics. It would require a physical threat to their way of life to let in Le Pen. The crime rate is not that severe. If the government was to act indecisively in the face of a terror attack on the scale of 9/11 then that might be enough. So, by all means, take notice, but we are in no danger of a fascist revolution under the current circumstances.
Paul T Horgan, UK

Is it so surprising that far-right parties are gaining ground? The man in the street doesn't want thousands of illegal immigrants overrunning the country every year. Genuine pleas for asylum should be heard and accepted, but when governments are so weak as to ignore a politically incorrect subject, normally moderate people have to look to extremes. Tony Blair may complain, but it will be voter apathy over relentless spin, corruption and political correctness that will see the far-right becoming ever more popular.
Peter Harrington, England

This is not a race issue, it's a class issue

Claire, France
There is no doubt that the proposed policies of far-right parties such as Le Pen's are repulsive. However, the increasing support these parties are gaining proves that there is an issue to be addressed here, in an honest and open way. This is not a race issue, it's a class issue. The fact is that legitimate immigrants moving to France find themselves poorly educated and ill-suited to finding work in the country, and inevitably end up a member of the poor underclass, living in the worst city districts. Many of these people then harbour jealousy and hatred towards the middle classes, and turn to crime - as many white people would if they found themselves in the same situation. Racial stereotypes therefore abound. The issue here is that the government should be providing a lot more support for legitimate immigrants, to improve living conditions in public housing, improve inner city education, and enable these minorities to integrate themselves more easily into the workplace in France.
Claire, France

This can happen anywhere where there is voter apathy. It is the people with the strongest opinions who make the most effort to go out and vote.
Neil Porter, UK

All nations should learn from the experience of France

Paul, UK
For so long, far-right groups have been seen as politically innocuous entities. In recent times, however, they have learned that a higher profile stems from choosing targets carefully. Le Pen has exploited Jospin's indecision, Italy has suffered from ongoing scandal, and here in the UK the BNP is now canvassing in areas of high racial tension. All nations should learn from the experience of France and address the issues upon which nationalist groups are focusing and obtaining their support. If a situation high in the public mind is not addressed by the major players, then votes will be cast for extreme single-issue groups.
Paul, UK

Westminster should be worried about the increased popularity of the right in Europe, as the UK is politically a very fertile area for such views. Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties are gaining ground, and in England the question of why the English are so under-represented (in the sense that there is no English Parliament) becomes a mainstream electoral one. It is up to all of us to ensure that a climate exists in which these problems can be discussed without resorting to cheap, meaningless jibes of racism. This is one problem which cannot be ignored.
Mick Harford, UK

A powerful and extreme far-right in the UK? Another five years of insincere and manipulative party politics will guarantee it.
Ian, UK

Racism is an in-built reaction to a perceived threat

Michael, Canberra, Australia
Only a few years ago, One Nation - an anti-Aboriginal and anti-immigrant party - achieved more than 20% of the vote in some electorates in Australia. The party proved to be a flash in the pan. However, it showed that under the skin of even the most democratic and liberal of societies lurks an element of racism. It emerges when traditional parties appear to lack vigour and direction. Racism is an in-built reaction to a perceived threat. None of us is immune from it. Education is our only defence against our natural fear of cultures and people who are different to ourselves.
Michael, Canberra, Australia

I have to agree with others who have written in about this. Any voter apathy is a direct result of the uninspired leadership of the mainstream political party leaders. As one woman interviewed in France today said they now have a choice between a gangster and a fascist. What kind of choice is that?
Roy Kersley, UK

Maybe it's understandable that some people might not wish to accept immigrants from societies where concepts such as equality for women, a high degree of personal liberty and freedom, separation of religion and state, and absence of capital punishment are alien. It was once impossible for liberals to consider these possibilities but in a world of ever increasing population movements, mainstream governments may have to risk the wrath of liberals to obliterate the Le Pens.
Paul McDonnell, Australia (English)

If Le Pen does get elected, he'll be representing the will of the French people

Brian, USA
Europe as a whole is overreacting to this. Le Pen isn't the president, he's in a race to be president. It's no different than when he was one of 16 candidates - now he's one of two candidates. If he does get elected, he'll be representing the will of the French people, and if that does happen, he'll be balanced out by a liberal parliament. The same thing happens in America. President Reagan's stance was balanced by a liberal Congress, President Clinton was balanced by a conservative Congress. In the end, nothing will happen that would be more radical than what M Chirac would do. The rhetoric may well be more radical than before, but rhetoric is like law without force - impotent. Ultimately, you're all working yourselves into a tizzy over nothing.
Brian, USA

In response to Brian, USA: The American situation is very different to that of the UK and European political systems. In the USA you have a triumvirate source of power - the Senate, Congress and the White House. In Europe it is slightly different. The "tizzy" that we are working ourselves up in is because if Le Pen does come to power he could manipulate the situation and turn France into a fascist country that does not represent the views of the majority (and yes low voter turn out can mean that the party no one wants gets voted in - Labour won their second election with only 25% of the vote. 75% of this country did not vote for them and yet we are under their rule).

In the 1930's Hitler too was voted in due to voter apathy, lack of choice and so on. Once in power he was able to use the public discourse as an excuse to order Martial Law and then turned Germany into a totalitarian state. The same could happen with Le Pen and that is the worry. When one of the leading candidates is openly racist and fascist there is a big concern, not just for the people of France but for the world. We do not want to witness what our forefathers witnessed and my grandfathers fought hard for this country so that a situation like this would not occur again. Sitting back and saying "don't get in a tizzy" is exactly the wrong attitude to have. This is a wake up call and considering the current global political climate we should be concerned and we should be vigilant.
Sharon B, UK

Unfortunately, what happened in France this weekend may happen in other countries where traditional parties have lost contact with people's expectations and where voters cast their vote, in what they sought as a risk-free vote, to extremist parties. What is worrying is not only that the far-right scored well but that both left extremist parties' votes and abstentions were high.
Olivier, France/USA

It is disturbing and worrying that the French electorate have allowed this candidate to become a frontrunner. It should serve as a lesson to us all just how dangerous apathy can be. Let us hope that the people of France realise this and make sure that he does not end up as their president!
Philip S Hall, UK

These kind of results are disturbing for minorities living in countries such as France. Something has to be done before is too late, and in this instance that means voting Mr Chirac back in.
Thairu, Kenya

Left or right, is it wrong to be proud of your own people, own country, own culture, own language? Isn't this what being patriotic represents? It is very important to know who you are and to keep your national identity in tact.
James Smith, Boston, USA

The irony of proportional representation is that while it provides truly representative democracy, it gives powers to parties that threaten democracy

Jon, UK
The electoral system plays a significant role here. Proportional representation, used in almost every country on the continent, allows for small extreme parties to have a parliamentary influence. The British first-past-the-post means that parties like the BNP would have to beat all the major parties to win seats in the Commons - which is extremely unlikely, but in a sense is also undemocratic. The irony is that a system that provides truly representative democracy (PR) gives powers to parties that threaten democracy.
Jon, UK

I believe that this whole Le Pen debacle illustrates the need for people to vote for mainstream parties, despite their imperfections. The recent trend towards protest voting, due to an apparent dissatisfaction with the major political parties, can lead to highly unintended consequences. Many of those who voted for Ralph Nader here in the US deeply regret that they helped elect Bush, as I am sure many of those who voted for far left-wing candidates in France now regret what they did. Rarely do the main political parties put forward "perfect" candidates, but your views are more likely to be represented if you vote for that "imperfect" mainstream candidate, than if you waste your vote on a fringe candidate who has no chance of being elected.
Luke, USA

For many, this has already happened in the US, in the electoral mess which brought Bush and his far-right cronies to power. In the US, we can no longer crow about how wonderful our "democracy" is since it no longer exists here.
Bob Northrop, Colorado, USA

Yes, it definitely could spread. Just take a few complex social problems, a few loudmouth politicians who think they have simple answers to complex issues, and a bunch of misinformed voters - usually tabloid readers - and hey presto! One far-right (or far-left) government. It's up to you and me to stop this from happening!
Roger, UK

People are feeling disenchanted with the mainstream parties because nothing seems to get done

Rob Powell, UK
It was a shock to hear just how well Le Pen had done in France. Fresh worries here about the rise of the BNP are justified in my view. People are feeling disenchanted with the mainstream parties because nothing seems to get done. There is too much talk and not enough listening to common sense and what the people want. People I know whom in the past have been very conservative in their political outlook feel frustrated as crime rises - why, they ask, can't we be tougher? It is time for the parties to get back in touch before it is too late.
Rob Powell, UK

Yes definitely. Look how many countries have moved towards the right in the last few years - Austria, Italy, Portugal and now France. Extremists of both wings will always vote so it is up to mainstream politicians to engage people so that they actually feel part of the process and relevant, otherwise election turnouts will drop even further. There must also be a much more positive agenda. As it stands there is far too much emphasis on security and crime, which plays into the hands of extremists like Le Pen. Let's hope this is a wake up call.
Andrew Watson, UK

This has served to remind people of a simple fact. If you do not vote, you will not affect the result.
Rob, UK

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