France is a large country in Europe with a rich history and culture and a population of 67.7 million. It is an integral member of both the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and France’s complexities of diplomacy may be as daunting as 3-dimensional chess, and extremist views domestically limit Macron’s available political capital in the international arena.
Emanuel Macron and his Le Republique En Marche party was re-elected in the 2022 election with 58% of the vote, his top competitor, Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally (Rassemblement National) party had their largest-ever gains, winning 89 seats and denying Macron a majority government. Previously known as the National Front, the National Rally party has been a political force in France for decades. They received 34% of the vote in the last election.
Le Pen voters are often referred to as far or extreme right, or even the anti-immigration party. In the April 2022 election 41% of French voters supported Le Pen and the National Rally party, who were known for their racist and authoritarian beliefs. During the campaign Le Pen repeated her intent to make social assistance programs unattainable for foreigners who had not worked for a minimum of 5 years in France and to ban Muslim headscarves (hijabs) in public. In addition, Le Pen associates with Viktor Orban of Hungary whom I talked a bit about in the previous OP/ED, and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy amongst other authoritarian and fascist leaders. To make matters worse she even spoke of withdrawal from NATO, and Since 2011 Le Pen has declared her admiration for Vladimir Putin and his policies. However, due to Russia’s invasion on Ukraine Le Pen has brushed off questions about Putin and began to shift her public position.
Similarly, here in Canada the issue of religious garments and symbols worn by those working for the Province of Quebec has been hotly debated in the National Assembly of Quebec, in parliament, at rallies, and throughout communities. Bill 21, referred to as Quebec’s secularism law, has been controversial since receiving Royal Assent in June 2019. Backlash against Bill 21 is supported by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association informing us how this law unfairly impacts Canada’s marginalized populations. In August of 2022 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported on the Association of Canadian Studies new report which was a combined study with Leger, a prominent polling organization. Lead researcher, Miriam Taylor explained – “Religious minority communities are encountering – at levels that are disturbing – a reflection of disdain, hate, mistrust and aggression.”
Prior to the 2022 election but after the war in Ukraine had begun, the people of France found Macron to be a good crisis leader, and his poll numbers improved. Yet Macron’s record on immigration is not a good one, nor did he inherit anything resembling a functioning immigration system. In 2018 the United Nations (UN) criticized France and the Macron government of inhumane and substandard conditions experienced by asylum-seekers. With an increased anti-immigrant sentiment among the French, Macron’s government has continued to destroy migrant settlements without providing services to even the most vulnerable. The message they provide instead is move on. Meanwhile, on March 10, 2022 Ukrainian refugees were given temporary protection in France, similar to those who hold Schengen Visas which are renewable every 6 months. Neither Macron nor Le Pen offers any reasonable solution to France’s continued abuse of basic human rights, and this same scenario is being played out in other European countries too. In France there is room for the white Ukrainians fleeing war and no room for the people of color predominantly from countries that are under travel advisories in the West.