As expected, Marine Le Pen has declined to endorse Nicolas Sarkozy for president in Sunday’s run-off election. Her decision is probably the final nail in Sarkozy’s electoral coffin. Le Pen finished a strong third in the preliminary election, and support from her right-leaning voters is crucial to Sarkozy’s hopes of defeating Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande. Some have estimated that Sarkozy needs 80 percent of Le Pen’s vote. But polls show he is only at about 50 percent, and without Le Pen’s endorsement that number may not increase.
The conventional wisdom, to which have I have subscribed, is that Le Pen’s decision is the product of opportunism. A Sarkozy defeat, she is said to believe, would clear the way for her to become the leading choice for non-Socialist voters next time around.
This theory may be a correct analysis of Le Pen’s motivation. However, Le Pen’s refusal to endorse Sarkozy is also consistent with her principles. Le Pen’s National Front Party is, I believe, as extremist as the liberal American MSM portrays it. Unlike some other European parties that are mis-portrayed as extremist across-the-board, Le Pen’s party is not “right-wing” only in the sense of being against European integration and concerned about the threats posed by immigration generally and Islamism in particular. Le Pen’s father, the odious Jean-Marie Le Pen who led the National Front Party for decades, is an out-and-out racist and Holocaust minimizer, if not skeptic. Marine Le Pen may come across more softly than her father, but she seems incapable of breaking away from her father’s heritage and the Vichy-ist, anti-Semitic core of the Party he formed.
However, even if Marine Le Pen is not an extremist in her father’s tradition, her policy disagreements with Sarkozy would still justify her refusal to support him. For example, although Sarkozy is a nationalist in many respects, he is a firm supporter, and indeed a mainstay, of the European project. Le Pen is also an opponent of free trade and would pull France out of NATO. Sarkozy’s nationalism does not take him anywhere near these policies.
In any event, the Hollande-Sarkozy race may be all over except for the debating, which will occur tonight.