However people did not expect her to do that well.
The 17.9% of the vote that Front National achieved meant hat she achieved her stated goal of getting a better result than her father Jean-Marie Le Pen.
The expectation that Jean-Luc Mélenchon,the far left candidate, would achieve 15% was proven to be false.
He achieved 11% of the vote, had not expectations been so high,this would be regarded as a commendable result.
However you view the results of the other candidates,the 6 million votes for Le Pen give more than pause for thought.
Only those an ultra left binge, or currently residing in Stalin's Third Period could fail to be appalled.
This numerically dwarfs the result that her father achieved in 2002,when he made it to the second round. Which resulted in the macabre spectacle of French Trotskyists and Marxists appealing to the left to turn out and vote for Chirac, his conservative opponent.
After that result thousands took to the street to protest against the rise of French Fascism.This did not happen this time,which speaks volumes about the normalisation of hard racism within the centre of French politics.
The French-born Mohamed Merah who struck in southwestern France, killing three paratroopers, three Jewish children and one rabbi before dying in a police siege of his Toulouse apartment,has been suggested as a pre-eminent factor in the French election results.
The murder spree of Merah cannot explain away these votes.In Norway the trial of Breivik has not been accompanied by a call to reintroduce the death penalty, it has been used as an argument for democratic renewal.Whilst there was justifiable outrage in France at the atrocities, any advantage for Marine Le-Pen was much more to do with recent French domestic politics.
The Sarkozy administrations interpretation of French secularism has drawn condemnation from many foreign liberals and plaudits from the English Defence League.
The banning of the Burkha and the prohibition of praying in the streets has seen the direct targeting of the Muslim community, which has created an environment that is not merely extremely racist but conducive to the growth of Fascism.There has also been the smashing up Roma camps and the deliberate coarsening of public debate towards ethnic minorities.
What the Front National represents is a more robust version of the cultural mainstream .The comments of her father 10 years ago would have seemed shocking because they were 12 feet over to the right ,now his daughters views are perhaps a mere 3 feet away.Sarkozy has changed the weather in the way race has been allowed to be discussed.
The Front National has gone through a period of reinvention.It is clearly true that Marine Le-Pen is different from her father.Whilst he has significant baggage that is alienating to many:a torturer during the Algerian war of independence ,a Vichyite and an Anti-Semite,his daughter presents a different persona.
It is undeniable she is young, attractive and personable.She maintains she stands for other things.She makes identification with the resistance rather than collaborators,she declares herself to be pro-choice, comfortable with homosexuality and a very modern French patriot.When she was a lawyer ,she took no fee cases for the poor,she also helped illegal immigrants.She referred to Nazism as an abomination. A 2011 poll said 27% of the population had a favourable opinion about her.
However she does have a problem with Islam.The reinvention of Fascism in the Front National is very much the same as it is in other countries.No mention of the Jews ,(not in public anyway) other targets have been found, but beneath the re-branding an essentially Fascist Party.
During the election campaign there were still reports of Front National thugs roughing up leftist opponents.On 27th January ,the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz she attended a ball in Vienna hosted by the far-right Freedom Party of Austria,this was regarded as a festival for those nostalgic about the Third Reich.Thousands of anti-Fascists demonstrated outside.
“It is all the more regrettable and perfidious that today of all days, people will dance on the graves of Auschwitz,” Eva Glawischnig, head of Austria’s Green party, said at a Holocaust commemoration ceremony.
Marine Le Pen is quite happy to use Islamophobia in a pretence of defending Jews, Gays and Women.
“I increasingly hear about the fact that, in certain areas, it’s not good to be a woman, or gay, or a Jew, or French or white,” she said in a speech to party members, in which she compared the call to prayer to an “occupation” of France.
Le Pen began her career in law, where she was assisting illegal immigrants, the sans papiers, to remain in France.She maintains she did this as they were hapless victims of lax immigration laws.
Something she of course will rectify.
When Merah was shot she took her opportunity to say she was speaking in defence of Jews against Islamists.
''The identification of the killer only confirms what I’ve been speaking out against for years – there’s growth of Islamic fundamentalism in our country that the powers-that-be have underestimated,” National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen told Tel Aviv private radio 90 FM in a live interview.
“Whole neighbourhoods of the suburbs (of our big cities) have fallen into the clutches of the fundamentalists, weapons are all over the place and foreign funding is pouring in,” she said, on the Israeli station.
The Front National have always had a tactic of making statements that might appeal to the margins and then returning to right of centre and then back to the margins.
Under the leadership of her father, they cultivated the support of Archbishop Lefevres supporters ,and the Anti-Semites of groups like The Society of St. Pius X.
In the run up to the election she distanced herself from those supporting gay marriage to reconnect with the party's traditional Roman Catholic base.
"This sort of proselytizing, gay pride with its parades which are, as a general rule, provocations against other people, notably Catholics."
Her previous pro-choice comments were balanced out with support for restrictions on working class women who seek abortions."If I have a budgetary choice to make between abortion, a procedure that can be avoided, considering the numerous means of contraception available in our country, and procedures that cannot be avoided and that allow French people who are suffering to be treated," I would choose the second option.''
As Nonna Meyer of University Sciences PO says:
''She’s younger, she’s a woman, she condemns Anti-Semitism. She often says things differently than her father,” Meyer said. “She says she is tolerant, it is Islam that is intolerant … She upends the discourse. But the foundation of the program is the same. If you look at the values her party defends, it is a system at once authoritarian and rejecting of others, rejecting the difference.”
The Front National are hoping this will put them in a strong position to gain seats in the Parliamentary elections on June 10 and 17th.
It is here that they hope to hold a balance ,if they can win sufficient seats.There is a belief in some circle that she is kingmaker in the Presidential elections,and a word from her, and Sarkozy can win. The election in reality is Hollande's to lose.Marine Le Pen,even if she wanted to ,could not deliver the votes.
Also, sectarianism is not the exclusive preserve of the left.
Not all the votes were committed Fascist votes,many were protest votes against Sarkozy's austerity measures.He knows how unpopular he is,he has been relying on right wing fear of the left.His appeal to them could be summed up as:
''Après moi, le déluge''.
They who voted Le Pen as a protest against his policies are unlikely to vote for him now.A survey said that only 40% of Le Pens votes would go to Sarkozy.Aspects of Le-Pens platform were there to factor in racist votes from the traditional left,for instance a policy of renationalisation of the postal service was one of her policies.The votes are simply not in her gift.
The failure of the left to launch a serious challenge to islamophobia is the most worrying aspect in the conditions which gave rise to her vote.The arguments in defence of secularism ,have been deployed exclusively against the Muslim community in recent years.This mirrors the restrictions on the wearing of headscarves some years ago.The ban on the veil was pushed through the lower house with only one vote against.As the BBC reported:
''Many of the opposition Socialists, who originally wanted the ban limited only to public buildings, abstained from voting after coming under pressure from feminist supporters of the bill.''
Apart from the slightly bizarre prospect that the Gendarmerie could be described as fulfilling a feminist function by telling women what to wear,there seems to be a level of paternalistic racism within the French left that made it acceptable for socialists to cosy up to islamophobes in restricting peoples freedoms.
Ilhaim Mussaid a candidate for the NPA, a party of the left was forced out ,because she couldn't deal with the constant attacks over her choice to wear a hijab.
The tradition of secularism which originally had been a way of combating the power of the established church is now almost universally deployed to attack Muslims.There are few examples of women being accused of self oppression for wearing crucifixes,although the established christian church could hardly be defined as woman friendly.Every concession which has been made to the racists has just made them stronger.It will be very difficult for progressives and the left to build an effective opposition to the Front National until this issue is resolved.
The elections in June will give the left the next opportunity to confront the FN .There have been previous campaigns of democratic harassment The FN had it's meetings and rallies confronted and picketed.Previously putting pressure on the FN has resulted in exacerbating the tensions within the party, causing splits.The Sarkozy Merkel axis will be over and will open up new political possibilities. With a resurgent vote for the Socialists and the hard left there exists an activist base capable of building a United Front against the Fascists.The growth of the fascists,not just in France,but across mainland Europe
are now demanding a serious response.A united Front can be built.
This must be regarded as a task of the utmost urgency.