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French National Front Party's European Victory Signals Rise of the Far Right

The FN election victory reflects French voters' dissatisfaction with the European Union, amid economic strain on the country.

by Leezel Tanglao
May 26 2014, 7:55pm

Photo via AP

Far-right parties in Europe are here to stay.

This weekend, France's far-right party, the National Front (FN), garnered a historic 25 percent of the vote in the European Parliamentary elections — thus giving the party 22 of France's 74 assigned seats in the governing body — sending shockwaves across the European political scene.

The FN election victory reflects French voters' dissatisfaction with the European Union, amid economic strain on the country and emergence of a new wave of nationalism.

"The French suffer from austerity, unemployment, and social difficulties. But our governments are deaf to the cry of the people," FN party leader Marine Le Pen told the Associated Press Monday.

Far-right parties are demonizing immigrants to clinch the EU Parliament. Read more here.

On Sunday, France's Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the election result a "very serious moment for France and Europe," amid calls for his resignation by FN party leaders. "The result is more than another warning; it's a shock, an earthquake," said Valls, according to the Guardian.

But France's Socialist government said it is not going to let FN's historic victory derail their plans for tax cuts and other reforms.

Today, French President Francois Hollande held a meeting of ministers to craft a response to the trash talk against his party by the anti-EU, anti-immigration FN.

French President Francois Hollande released this statement on the European Parliamentary elections on Monday.

Hollande's Socialist Party finished third in the elections, with the center-right Union for a Popular Movement in second place.

Le Pen — the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen who founded the FN in 1972 — has helped put the party back in voter's minds by remaking its image and capitalizing on anti-immigrant sentiment.

Last year, VICE's Shane Smith interviewed Le Pen and asked her what accounted for her party's rise in the popularity.

"We are fighting against the globalization that has been destroying our nation. We are fighting for an economic protectionism that is involved in certain amount of countries, yours also that the European Union forbids us to implement," Le Pen told Smith last year. "We are fighting against massive immigration and we are also fighting for our identity that France remains France, because this is why we love her."

Why the far-right party's win matters to the future of France. Read more here.

On Sunday, she emphasized that nationalism in a speech to supporters after the results were tallied.

"Our people demand only one type of politics — a politics of the French, for the French and with the French," Le Pen said.

While pro-EU parties were expected to retain control of the European Parliament, FN wasn't the only far-right party to gain some seats.

Far-right parties in the UK, Denmark and Austria all picked up seats this weekend. The parliament will also welcome its first neo-Nazi members from Germany and Greece.

And every seat gained by them and so-called Eurosceptic representatives will have a significant impact.

"They don't have enough votes to stop legislation going through but what they will get, particularly on the far-right, is the time for speaking in debates, the chairmanship of certain committees, which means that they're going to have much more of a platform on which they can sell their message to voters," Simon Usherwood, an expert on European politics at the University of Surrey told CNN.