National Front Election Defeat, French Newspapers React

National Front leader Marine Le Pen on Dec. 13
National Front leader Marine Le Pen on Dec. 13
Patrick Randall

PARIS â€" The French National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, failed to win a single region in the second round of regional elections Sunday despite leading in six of the country's 13 regions a week earlier in the first round. The center-right coalition led by Former President Nicolas Sarkozy won in seven regions, while the center-left of current President Francois Hollande took five, with Corsian nationalists winning in the island region of Corsica.

After a week of both the right and left factions of the political establishment warning of the consequences of a National Front victory, the French press described the far right's defeat as a victory of tactical voting, rather than any endorsement of either Sarkozy or Hollande. Indeed, a year and a half away from the next presidential election, the National Front reached a new high of support that shows that Le Pen, daughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, is in a strong position to run for the presidency.

Here's how four dailies covered the results Monday:


The left-wing Libération wrote on its front page Monday morning that France is “relieved, but ... .” the National Front still achieved its best results ever with a record 6.8 million of votes, or 28% of the total. "Not really a victory, not really a defeat," the daily continues about the far-right party's results. Although this shows once again the party's limits in national elections â€" what Le Monde calls its "glass ceiling" preventing it from moving beyond first-round victories â€" such figures could bolster Marine Le Pen in a probable presidential candidacy in 2017.


Catholic daily La Croix chose to emphasize on its front page Monday the fact that Sunday's results symbolized a "defeat for all," and not only for the National Front. There is "no triumphalism on either side," the newspaper writes. It also quotes Prime Minister Manuel Valls warning that "the far right threat is not gone," and former President Nicolas Sarkozy stressing that these results "must not let us forget the warning we received in the first round."


Far-left daily L’Humanité wrote that the far-right defeat represented a victory for a "republican front" for which the left "paid the full price," with the loss of almost half the regions it headed in favor of the center-right. "It's a rectification shift from the first round, in the form of a citizen burst to stand in the way of the National Front," the newspaper writes.

It was above all a "tactical" victory that was confirmed by the daily Le Courrier Picard, located in a region that was highly threatened by the far right and that dedicated its front page Monday to this "Republican Surge."


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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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