France in the 1990’s Part II
Le Pen’s FN combined together different motifs from the French far-right tradition. Born in 1972 from the union of the nationalist and the conservative wing led by Le Pen, the FN had an insignificant debut from an electoral point of view until, at the end of the seventies, the harshest characteristics of right-wing extremism were lost., began to take on more moderate tones within the framework of a strong national-populist connotation, conquering since 1983 a consistent electoral presence which grew further in the following years. The line of the FN was since then characterized by an economic liberalism corrected by a ‘popular capitalism’ to protect the middle classes against the elites traditional economic issues, from a demand for referendum and plebiscite democracy and the demand for a strong state. The most significant connotation of the FN, however, has been, from the beginning, a nationalist, anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic ideology, according to which immigrants have always been indicated as the most serious threat to the national identity of the country to be answered with a increase in births and with the affirmation of the principle of ‘national preference’, both in hiring work and in the provision of various forms of social assistance. In foreign policy, the FN has always taken an anti-European position in the name of a ‘Europe of homelands’.
In this social and political context, legislative elections were held in March 1993, in a difficult climate for the governing coalition led by the socialist P. Bérégovoy: during 1992 various politicians, especially socialists, had been investigated for corruption and others. financial offenses.
According to Programingplease.com, the elections so they saw the collapse of the PS, which fell from 252 to 54 seats (a slump that had as its tragic end, a month later, suicide the same Bérégovoy), while the left as a whole did not reach the 20, 3 % of votes. Instead, the RPR (247 seats) and the UDF (213 seats) triumphed ; the PCF dropped to 23 deputies, while the FN and the two environmental groups (Les Verts and Génération écologie) who had come together, while achieving a good percentage result (respectively, 12, 41 % and 7, 63% in the first round), they did not get seats. The center-right grouping thus found itself to have, with the help of small allied formations, 484 seats against the 70 of the socialist-led coalition (PS, Mouvement des radicaux de gauche and other minor groups of the left): yes had therefore come again to create a situation of cohabitation between a president and a cabinet belonging to opposite sides, a phenomenon that has characterized French political life in the last decades starting from 1986 – 88 (when with France Mitterrand president, J. Chirac was prime minister).
The new center-right government, led by the neo-Galilist E. Balladur, set the reduction of the deficit and unemployment among its first objectives: but the measures adopted between 1993 and 1994 did not prove effective, while a stricter legislation on the immigration and the granting of French citizenship to immigrants, alongside some attempts to reduce the scope of public assistance, met with strong social opposition. Also with regard to international relations, the Balladur government was attacked by many for the military intervention in Rwanda (April 1994); this intervention seemed to serve as a cover for the traditional support that France had always offered to government forces, despite being officially motivated by the need to create a ‘humanitarian safety zone’ for refugees from the civil war in the country among the forces governmental groups, consisting of the Hutu ethnic majority and the Front patriotique rwandais (FPR), an expression of the Tutsi minority. Still in the field of international politics, relations between France and the People’s Republic of China were officially reopened in that same period, interrupted more than a year earlier due to the French decision to sell arms to Taiwan. Between autumn 1994 and the end of 1996finally, Islamic terrorism – mainly by the extremists of the Armed Islamic Groups (GIA) – returned to the limelight, striking with dramatic regularity: the latest example was the explosive attack on a train on the metro line between Paris and the neighboring areas (December 1996), never claimed, but still attributed to the GIA. In April-May 1995 the new presidential elections were held.
Following the serious electoral defeat of 1993, the PS, in a series of renewal attempts, had seen alternate leadership of the party first M. Rocard (October 1993) and, after the subsequent electoral failure in the European elections in June 1994, an exponent of the left-most wing, H. Emanuelli. In anticipation of the presidential elections, after the soon faded hypothesis of a moderate candidacy by J. Delors, the party had nominated L. Jospin (February 1995). Linked to Mitterrand, whom he had replaced at the head of the party between 1981 and 1987, since 1993Jospin had shown a critical attitude towards presidential politics and had repeatedly raised the moral question within the party. His electoral program included a reduction in working hours, a tax reform, the reduction of social security contributions on low wages to boost employment. Since the results of the first round (april 1995), Jospin won an unexpected electoral success (23, 3 % of votes), which seemed to indicate a trend change for the Socialists, while the final result (47, 4%) nominated him as the future leader of the left. As for the RPR, the presidential campaign was marked by internal competition between the two main exponents of the party, Chirac and Balladur, to the advantage, in the first round, of the socialist candidate Jospin. Chirac, although with little deviation, managed to get the better of Balladur (20, 8 % vs. 18, 6 %), while the most significant figure was the 15 % of the votes obtained by Le Pen, significant of a return to the extreme right in that moment of crisis. In each ballot was Chirac way to have the upper hand (the 52, 6 % versus 47, 4%), thus becoming the new President of the Republic.