Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in:  Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Could the far-right win in other European countries?

  Click here to watch this edition of Talking Point  

French President Jacques Chirac is back in office after fending off the challenge of far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Now other European countries are asking whether they can expect similar challenges from the far-right.

Mr Le Pen, who famously called the Holocaust a "detail of history", came second in the first round of the presidential vote, beating the socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin.

Two years ago, in Austria, the far-right Freedom Party led by Joerg Haider entered government.

This week, the British National Party achieved its best results since the 1970s in the English local elections.

The far-right has even scored success in traditionally liberal societies like Denmark and the Netherlands.

Reasons given have included a perceived link between crime and immigration, anxieties about job security as well as disgust at political corruption.

What do you think? Could the far-right win in other European countries?

We discussed this issue in Talking Point, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service, BBC News Online, and digital television.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

It is voter apathy that is letting in the extreme element

Richard, York, England
I do not understand what people are concerned with about the rise of a political party, left, right or centre. If you wish to protest get out and vote. It is voter apathy that is letting in the extreme element. If not then it is the will of the people and we should accept the outcome of the voting system we have chosen.
Richard, York, England

I think that the rise of extremist Right wing parties in Europe will continue and that the main cause for this is the perception - unfortunately correct in a lot of cases - we have of immigrants as criminals. I have nothing against people coming to the UK from any other country in the world. In fact, I think it is positive and I welcome them. However, I do resent all the immigrants who come and commit crimes and who do not respect laws and traditions of the country they choose to come and live in. I am not saying that they should take up Morris dancing but they must acknowledge our laws.
F L, Bradford, W Yorkshire

Whatever the local government is doing or achieving, the only thing extreme-right seems to need in all our countries is a charismatic leader

Martin du Houx, Antwerp, Belgium
In strong contrast to for instance Pim Fortuyn in Holland, le Pen uses strongly populist arguments to attack some core values of democracy. One may not throw the democratic values into the balance: or one upholds them all and tries to create a democratic country, or one loses one or two, and loses any meaning of democracy. What would France, or any European democracy, be if we would skip "la liberte", or leave out "la fraternite"? We would literally go back in history and make void all conflicts and wars during the three last centuries to get to these core values...

And another important issue, many people seem to forget: "it can not happen in our country, and France had it coming". I am afraid this is short-sighted: whatever the local government is doing or achieving, the only thing extreme-right seems to need in all our countries, is a strong populist voice, a charismatic leader that radiates the message of general frustration about the current situation to anyone who is listening. And rest assured: if such person was not yet present in your country, soon he/she will be, strengthened by the constant growing tendency in the rest of Europe.
Martin du Houx, Antwerp, Belgium

Did Mr Le Pen really make the comment about the Jews, or is it just another leftist media beat-up that has taken on a life of its own, so that no-one actually examines his policies? I read a report that a lot of Jewish people were actually voting for Le Pen because they are concerned too!
Alan Jones, Sydney Australia

Sydney is one of the most multicultural cities in the world so I feel qualified to comment on how multiculturalism is effecting my city. Over the past 10 years Sydney has become a city of arrogance, violence, fear, and intimidation. I have seen the change through objective eyes which have been now tainted with rage. Not all can be attributed to Australia's multicultural policies of the past 20 years but it is a fact that a very significant amount can be related to new arrivals behaving with zero respect for Australia's law, people and way of life. It is time people woke up to the facts and if it takes a right wing government to achieve sanity then so be it!
Dan, Sydney, Australia

I am sick of the term multi ethnic, multi faith, et cetera. What is the percentage of ethnic minorities, of which I am one, in the UK? Caucasian natives, whom I have spoken to, are resentful, perceiving that the tail wags the dog. Urban myths abound about the preferential treatment of immigrants, and for God's sake, do not call them asylum seekers. Asylum seekers get asylum the minute they reach the shores of Europe. What they are now are economic migrants, wanting to jump the queue. The politicians and those on the liberal left should not talk up these issues or they will play up paradoxically to the fears of the majority and give grist for the mill that the far right are hoping to peddle.
Changyh, UK

When the leftists resort to executing their "far right" opponents such as what happened in the Netherlands today, yeah, I do believe the right-wingers can win

Stephen, USA
When the leftists resort to executing their "far right" opponents such as what happened in the Netherlands today, yeah, I do believe the right-wingers can win, for the far left is as bad as the far right, evidently the left is not immune to resorting to terror to win the day either.
Stephen, USA

If the voter does not wake up, the establishment will produce dictators and wipe their feet and walk all over the electorate. Voters should wake up. Another problem is that the British public is not sure of their cultural identity.
Robert JM Barrett, UK

Mr. Le Pen is not a good example of a tolerant and pluralistic mind which is badly needed in world leaders at this time.
Jaime Saldarriaga, Bogota, Colombia

Of course the far right could come to power in France as well as any country. Equally the extreme left could do the same thing. It's all a question of balance. If the normal liberal politicians do not try to deal with very real fears extremism wins. A fine balance has to be struck between Capitalism, Liberalism and socialism and this is patently failing at the moment. Extremism is born of insecurity.
Jackson, Welling, Kent

Europe is becoming a very scary place

Monica, USA
Europe is becoming a very scary place. The far-right, assassinations, and anti-Semitic attacks. Sounds familiar?
Monica, USA

The extreme parties reflect a number of values and beliefs which are common with a sector of the society. These parties were always present, and always will be present in the political spectrum of any nation. The point is that an increase in criminal rate, and lack of force by the governments to deal with illegal immigrants, which in general are associated with crime, increased their popularity. Therefore, until mainstream parties, start to tackle these issues seriously, the far right popularity will decrease.
Tony, Malta

Whether we like to admit it or not, the extreme right wing is on the march. Le Pen has just increased his vote from 17% to 18%. That's several hundred thousand more votes than before, so there's no room for complacency because of Chirac's victory at the polls.
Graham, Helmond, The Netherlands

Racism is by definition the concept that one race is superior to others. The problem France faces today I think is not Racism but rather a competition of different races for power. It is speciation, a driving force in evolution - allopathic speciation followed by sympatric speciation. It is time the politicians stop running their countries like "plantations" randomly mixing races as a cheap and skilled source of labour for their own financial gain.
Roger Bascom, Canada

Some people, especially from US, do not understand why Mr LePen is dangerous. I would just list one point - "French Preference" that he intended to make legal with special health services for foreign people ... Why will happen after this? Probably in 2 years I can ask a Chinese man to give me his seat in the bus and pass an Algerian woman at the supermarket desk. That sounds impossible? I'm sorry to tell you that the same (and worse) happened to the Jewish 50 years ago. I do not want it happening. Never again.
Michele Garcia, Paris France

It is funny how Americans, who are mostly immigrants from Europe use the Second World War as an example for liberating Europe from the far right. Why not distort history a bit more? We all know that the real reason for the US joining the war was to get the money back they provided to the UK and France for weapons and other things - and with France defeated and the UK on the brink of collapse, there were not a lot of options left. Isn't it surprising that the US only joined the war in 1942? Why wait so long to fight the evil right wing forces?
Stefan, Canada

I feel support for these parties is directly linked to rise of Political Correctness

Phil, UK
I feel support for these parties is directly linked to rise of Political Correctness. Most ideas of the Far Right simply don't stand up in an argument. However, instead of exposing these people for what they are and defeating them with the facts, we ban, outlaw and try to legislate them away. The result? They gain legitimacy and following among those in society who feel excluded for other reasons. It's time we buried political correctness and addressed the arguments, reasons and grievances head on that are feeding their support base. Until you defeat in open debate their feeble arguments and logic, then the Far Right will not go away, they'll just fester on the margins of our society like a slow-growing cancer.
Phil, UK

Although I am an immigrant I can understand why Europeans are concerned. Europeans now have one of the lowest birth rates in the world, while many immigrants and countries with would-be-immigrants have the highest birth rates in the world. Europeans basically face extinction in the next 100 years unless something is done or they face the prospect of becoming minorities in their own countries which will be repopulated by immigrants.
Haydar Borhan, Iranian living in Germany

Welcome to Earth, the Global village. Remember this term? We are all humans, we all descend from apes in Africa. We are all immigrants to the areas we live in. It just took longer because we didn't have rapid transport and vast differences in living standards. Where would the human race be just now if we hadn't wasted so much time and energy bickering amongst ourselves?
David, Edinburgh, UK

Yes, the far-right political parties will keep winning as long as the EU is not cautious. Le Pen or the others are representing their respected citizens' interest in a very democratic way. What I see as a danger is not how many countries are turning from liberal/social system to far-right wings.
M-Selassie, Zurich,Switzerland

The sooner the left-wing liberal establishment realise they have to govern for all the people the sooner the odious likes of Le Pen and the BNP will disappear

John, UK
Yes of course they can win. But it won't be so much of the extreme right winning but more of the mainstream parties continuing to discriminate in favour of particular ethnic groups over others population. So far the race issue is seen as white against the rest but there can be equal divisions between Indian and Pakistanis (not this stupid term "Asian" which could cover a sizeable chunk of the world's population") and Indians and African etc. The problem is it seems in this PC day and age that to even say that is to be classed as racist. The sooner the left-wing liberal establishment realise they have to govern for all the people the sooner the odious likes of Le Pen and the BNP will disappear. But if they (the establishment) follow their current path all they will do is provide ammunition for the extreme right.
John, UK

I just wish that a far right party would win in the Republic of Ireland, then we may see an end to these grotesque illegal immigrants.
Michael o Hailpin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Sad but true, here in the UK we are being swamped by illegal immigrants, our own laws of fairness and decency are being taken advantage of by countless economic illegal immigrants, just look at the situation at the Channel Tunnel. As I see it the poor will get poorer and the working person will pay a lot more in the way of taxes/stealth taxes, to support foreigners that have nothing to offer our country, but are more than happy to claim whatever they can, including the "free" healthcare offered here.
Peter C , London UK

The socialists running the EU just cannot see that it is their policies that are driving people to embrace the far-right. The individual identities of once great nations are being replaced by a pan-European state in which no-one has any say except the unelected socialists appointed to run the EU.
Gordon Hickley, London, UK

Of course the far-right will go on to have more electoral success in the years to come. The only way the other political parties can stop this is to listen to the concerns of all those who would vote for the far-right and act on them! But how many liberals have got the guts to do that?
Lee, Yorkshire, England

Tolerance, like suffering, also has limits

L. Loukopoulos, Detroit, USA
For the last 50 years we have been inundated with fear, contempt, hatred and guilt for the "far right." We are well aware of the forces that have been doing the inundating. With no particular malice to anyone, the pendulum has begun to swing the other way because it is time for equilibrium. Tolerance, like suffering, also has limits.
L. Loukopoulos, Detroit, USA

I think other countries could vote for extreme right as most European countries live in a very rich, vibrant and dynamic democracy.
Dutchman in USA, USA

Speaking as a white Anglo Saxon middle class male I would like to say the following. I feel completely disenfranchised from the political process concerning immigration in the U.K. I have no problem with legitimate immigrants who have the correct skills and abilities that this country needs. However, I feel that the ordinary man in the street has no influence whatsoever on immigration issues. I would like to ask you to advance the clock forward one hundred years. Consider yourself an ethnic minority in the year 2102. You are white, Christain and an English speaker. You live under Muslim Sharia Law and your children attend the local Islamic Faith School. Britain is the first westernised Islamic nation and all dissent is forbidden. You ask whether the right wing will spread in Europe. I for one sincerely hope it spreads in Britain.
Steve, UK

I don't see anything "dangerous" about Le Pen

Richard, USA
I don't see anything "dangerous" about Le Pen. What's he going to do that has the press so worried and upset? He certainly isn't going to attack his neighbours or colonize any faraway countries. He would deport illegal "immigrants", tighten asylum laws, enact legislation that French laws would override those from Brussels, work to keep the French language and culture a priority for France, etc. There's nothing terrible about that.
Richard, USA

Fascism is like a forest fire. One either ought to escape a forest fire or seek to extinguish it. To minimize the Holocaust of WW11 is an insult to France, a nation invaded, occupied and violated by WW11 fascism. Le Pen, like Hitler, may find support for his politics from those who seek not just to weaken France, but to partition and destroy it as an independent nation in itself, the inevitable outcome of post fascistic defeat and foreign rule of defeated fascist's powers.
Donald Fraser Miles, Port Hawkesbury, Canada

Could the far-right win in other European countries? The short answer is absolutely and in my humble opinion, inevitable and not just in Europe - 'Harvey, An American in Canada' wrote, "Europeans should stop lecturing Americans on tolerance and work on it in their own countries. If Europe is brought to the edge of war again, I hope you people massacre each other. But, this time don't bother asking for our help." It's this sort of self righteous, indignation that is at the core of any extremist element; it is global and infiltrates all borders. Harvey should be reminded that the US has a track record of allowing Europeans to massacre one another, does anyone remember the first and second world wars and which society profited most?
Peter, Vancouver, Canada

I agree with Sasha. The reason immigration is becoming an issue is that gay-hating, women-hating, democracy hating, bigoted religious zealots refuse to integrate with liberal Western civilisation. Instead they want to turn their host countries into the vile, repressive, economic disasters they came from in the first place.
Simon, London

Sasha, UK It's interesting to sense that touch of racism in your comments. Curious to learn the Chinese don't like the Muslims.
Roberto Franco, UK

Obviously immigration is the biggest problem today in Europe

Sasha, UK
Obviously immigration is the biggest problem today in Europe, but as am immigrant myself (East European, 15 years in UK and never on any state benefits whatsoever) I would like to point out differences within immigrants. For example, here in the UK, according to statistics, Chinese kids are the best in school, Chinese are hard-working community that does earn respect and economic benefits, not the DSS benefit. Do Chinese care about political correctness? Indians are similar, hard working, loyal to the host nation community. The main problem is Muslim immigration because they are not willing to adapt and respect the laws, culture and civilisation of host countries in Europe.
Sasha, UK

If Raj thinks India is so great, how can he explain the large number of Indians in the US? Why are there so few Americans who choose to live in India? He can be proud of his culture, but denying that the US has a culture is the most obvious sign of a deeply rooted inferiority complex. It's a very desperate stretch.
Dean, Boston

Raj, I didn't ask you to comment on the situation of my declining country. I know its problems and I know the cause of most of them; immigration! I do have one question: Since you're so proud of India, what part of the UK do you live in?
Sullivan, California, US

"Sullivan, California" needs a lesson in history. The Indian civilisation is not only thriving but is in fact reached greater heights. India still has a culture in place where students respect their teachers and children respect their parents. One only has to see the rising number of school shoot-outs, teenage pregnancies, incest happening in the US to look at the deterioration of a society without any culture.

It's the governments who become completely apathetic to the voters as soon as they come to power that are largely to blame

Ed Karten, UK
It's not only the voters' responsibility to avoid dangerous extremists coming into government, by voting. It's the governments who become completely apathetic to the voters as soon as they come to power that are largely to blame. The people are not happy and they demand change, and the self-satisfied attitude of politicians just adds insult to injury. That' s a more extreme approach becomes appealing.
Ed Karten, UK

To Rahul, London: Very few people in the world are as tolerant as Americans. Our cities are filled with immigrants from all over the world who have come to work hard and make a better life. The difference from many places is that these immigrants become Americans and are almost universally accepted as such. In the 2000 Presidential election, our "far-right" candidate, Pat Buchanan, received less than 1% of the vote. If you want to bring up the mistreatment of Native Americans, you should understand that it began with the colonization of the Americas by Europeans. Do you hold the same contempt for Canadians and Australians who also treated their native populations very badly?
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA

For all those Americans who say they don't have to put up with immigrants. Why the American Indians allowed you into their country? Some people have decency towards fellow people.
Rahul, London, UK

To Sullivan, CA, USA: Greece was invaded by foreign armies, not by unarmed immigrants in search of a better life. And by the way, he forgot to mention that his own country is based on the almost complete annihilation of the indigenous population and its great culture by non-military, yet armed immigrants. Is he therefore trying to tell us not to make the same mistake and do what Native Americans should have done, i.e. shoot the immigrants?
Andreas, Greece

Egypt, Persia, Armenia, India, Greece, Rome: What do they all have in common? They had built great civilizations, but were overrun by immigrants, and fell. Look at them now! Do any of them thrive like they once did? No. China has not had a major influx of "new blood, and ideas" in 3000 years. They have preserved their civilization. This is why China will watch Europe, and the US fall, just as it has watched all of the other great empires fall. Unless we give up these sentimental ideas of liberalism, that have, historically, always resulted in suicide.
Sullivan, California, USA

In 1944, both of my grandfathers fought to liberate Europe from right wing extremists. Now, I wonder why they bothered

Harvey, An American in Canada
In 1944, both of my grandfathers fought to liberate Europe from right wing extremists. Now, I wonder why they bothered. Personally, and I bet I am not the only American who thinks this, Europeans should stop lecturing Americans on tolerance and work on it in their own countries. If Europe is brought to the edge of war again. I hope you people massacre each other. But, this time don't bother asking for our help.
Harvey, An American in Canada

Many messages say the far left is as dangerous as the far right. It may be so, but the danger, for now, is from the far right. May I point out that Mr Le Pen has indicated he would use article 16 of the Constitution to do as he wish until the time of the General Elections in June. Electing him could be similar to choosing a dictator. My vote is for the remaining democrat, how corrupt may he be, Jacques Chirac.
Pascal Jacquemain, Welwyn Garden City, UK (French)

Just because your country was built by immigrants doesn't mean it also has to be overrun and destroyed by them. Enough is enough. If you don't believe me, come to Los Angeles, and I'll show you a great civilization in decline.
Mike, Los Angeles, Ca., USA

In its concern over low turn-out at the polling stations government appears to want the people of the country to have their say, but as soon as the voting is over it doesn't want to listen to what the voters are saying.

The people of Western Europe are fed up of seeing their left-liberal governments treating strangers like top guests, while the true citizens of their country, pay extortionate taxes to pay for benefits and other freebies the immigrants get. Western Europeans have had it up to here with being treated as second class citizens in their own countries.
Jono Pike (, Exeter, UK

Since there are no cohesive polices regarding immigration and asylum, each member state of the EU is free to go its own course

Amos, Israel
Since there are no cohesive polices regarding immigration and asylum, each member state of the EU is free to go its own course. If the French feel that their government ought to tighten the nationality and immigration laws, they have the right to express their will in a democratic fashion. The European Union's immigration laws are already tight as they are, but if the European Union citizenry wants those laws to be even tighter so be it! The hide and seek game of bogus asylum seekers is what makes the ordinary European citizens angry. After all Europe is for the Europeans.
Amos, Israel

I disagree with the Far Right on most things. The trouble is, if you ban them you've become just as bad as them, in taking away free speech. Same as if you shot Nazi supporters, you'd be no better than they are, for using violence against those who don't agree with you.
Phil, UK

Minority communities in France feel threatened because of Le Pen's success. Unless there is strong opposition to his leadership in France, things will become worse and it is up to the people to change the situation. In India too we have the same problem. In whichever States the BJP is in power minority communities are in danger. That is what happened recently in the State of Gujarat where about 2000 Muslims were killed by Hindus and the killers were the supporters of those who are in power. I foresee the same problem in France too.
Albert P'Rayan, Kigali, Rwanda (Indian)

The results of the 21st of April were a great shock to me

André Peillex, Evian, France
Indeed Le Pen made outrageous statements, and reflects a form of insanity which is even more pernicious than elsewhere in Europe, due to his history of violent rhetoric and behaviour. I think his success in the first round of our presidential election represents a threat to us, our peace and prosperity especially. The results of the 21st of April were a great shock to me, a bad taste joke, many first just remained dumbfounded, we thought we were through with something many failed to foresee, at least not me. For many the first reaction was of shame. "I'm ashamed of being French" I shared that feeling, asked myself why there is so much ignorance among electors and so on. Unfortunately those populists are thriving throughout Europe, we are taking a step behind, because of uncertainty about the future. I wish we'd be able to take two steps forward next, to make up for our mistake.
André Peillex, Evian, France

M. Merricks, it is not relevant that free and fair elections almost brought extremists to power. The point is that they are extremists. The rise of Hitler was within the rule of law.
Peter Bolton, UK/US

Democracy is being threatened in France by the non-stop street protests more than it is by Le Pen. There was a legal fair election and citizens had the choice to vote for Jospin, Chirac, Le Pen or whoever. It is dangerous when mass rallies are protesting a democratic result. Sure, Le Pen is a scary extremist, but so were some of the extreme-left candidates that together polled over 10% that many of the protesters (those that voted) supported. Suppose the results were different and Jospin came in first and a Communist placed second, and the disgruntled political right marched in the streets every day, unable to graciously accept defeat with the potential for violence. Surely then the focus on anti-democratic behaviour would be on the angry rightist mob, not the second place communist and his party's dark European history.
Brad Merricks, US/France

I think one of the main problem nowadays, in several countries, is that voters are fed up with a number of things. They believe (and this is driven also by marketing and advertising) that life should be easy, happy, and smooth. It's not, and it will not be, this is a fact. Life is difficult, for all sorts of reasons: there will always be accidents, crimes, disease, whatever. But because we are so spoilt already, we can't accept facing today's problems, and we want somebody to solve everything quickly. Le Pen promises easy answers to every single current issue. And now, people are consumers in politics as they are in supermarkets: they think they can buy themselves a good life, without making any effort. People should realise they have to get involved a bit more, rather than being so self-centred, and even selfish. I am 32, I voted for the left, and from now on I want to get more involved in local politics, in the local community, just to try and stop this trend. If enough people spend some energy in teaching voters that help will come from themselves, not from Le Pen, it's a good start.
Stéphane Bernard, Toulouse, France

I guess I am confused- Aren't French politicians allowed to have an opinion, no matter how repugnant the French public finds it to be? This was rather a mainstream argument in the last California gubernatorial election, with Mr Wilson being soundly defeated. Being a member of the local Green Party here in the States' gives one a unique perspective, particularly with regard to what we would consider "Neo-con" policies. What you would think of as repressive policies are a fact of life here.
Shawn Burnett, Wood Ridge, NJ/US

All I really know is that Le Pen is not the type of president we can tolerate for France. During the first world war the French president was the one wanting to give Germany the biggest punishment possible at the Treaty of Versailles. Now there is someone in France going for president who says the slaughter of the Jews was only a part of history. Le Pen is too dangerous as President of France, it shouldn't come to that though.
Ben, Doncaster, England

I am afraid to say that as long as we have politicians ridiculously saying that people should not celebrate St George's day because it might offend people that aren't nationals, then yes, far right will come in!!
Jo, London, England

Le Pen got all the votes he would ever get in that first round

Graeme, England
Le Pen got all the votes he would ever get in that first round. The simple fact that the centrist and leftist votes were shared amongst all the other candidates produced this freak result. If Britain voted for its head of state (which it should) then a similar situation could develop if too many similar candidates stood for office allowing a single far-right candidate to slip through.
Graeme, England

Roger Kite, you are correct in your belief that issue of immigration needs to be solved. But what exactly is the issue concerning religion and tradition? I'm sorry but I never knew that because someone was of a different religion to the majority of the population, that it was an issue that needed to be addressed first of all by government and secondly by repression. Such ideas are far too reminiscent of Hitler's regime in Germany. As for tradition, new ones are created. Old ones are forgotten. That is the way of life. People will always resist change but to do so through terror and legislation is wrong.
Jeremy Cedenio, UK/Bermuda

I believe that people are really missing the point of the vote for Le Pen, and to constantly dismiss votes for the far right as fascist and Nazi and subsequently to label voters fascists/Nazis and not to debate the key issues of immigration, sovereignty, religion and tradition will mean not to combat it properly.
Roger Kite, London

Politicians have skirted around issues for so long that the electorate no longer know what government is doing. This dumbing down of government in the vague hope that soundbites will get people voting only makes the electorate disenfranchised and ignorant.
Jonathan, London, UK

Why is it everyone assumes multiculturalism is a good thing? All we get for this is race riots and the usual garbage concerning how this somehow makes the domestic population more intelligent. In practical terms, all I see are more foreign takeaways.
Saber, Derby, UK

The underclass in the UK have no one to turn to. Labour is now a Tory party in drag. The difference between the Far Right and Far Left is tiny. Both seek to overthrow the status quo and replace it with something people want with immediate results.
John Maynard, UK

Though we might find Mr. Le Pen's views offensive (and most of us do) we must not forget that he is standing as a candidate in a democracy. It is wrong for Mr Blah to criticise Mr Le Penn just because he dislikes his views.
Sue and Jane, Sydney / Australia

His party allows these nationalist individuals to have an outlet

Graham, Henley, England
It is important to have such parties as Le Pen's, they play a vital role. I myself do not agree with their views or policies. I believe that everyone should have the same opportunities and be treated with equal respect. The reason I recognise the need for his party, is that without it you would have anarchy. His party allows these nationalist individuals to have an outlet. Democracy ensures that their behaviour is strictly regulated within certain principles of what is socially acceptable. Without such parties you would soon have underground movements doing even more damage and harm.
Graham, Henley, England

Am I understanding this question correctly? Le Pen is seen as a threat to freedom so the answer is to ban him, or ban people from voting for him, or ignoring a democratic vote for him. It is hard to see a greater violation of freedom than to prevent an adult voter from voting for the person they believe represents their viewpoint.
Willy Davidson, UK

I believe that Economic and Monetary Union is in part responsible for the rise in nationalism and far right groups throughout Europe. Most people living within the Euro-Zone were never given the opportunity in a referendum to endorse or reject the Euro. The Euro has diminished their national identity and caused them to lose sovereignty over their economy. We are fortunate the Government in the UK intends to give us the chance to vote in a referendum, or we could be next.
Graham Childs, Henley-on-Thames, UK

Sad though it may be, the right could grow in popularity steadily over years to come. Here, they're already up in the votes from the previous 1992 election. The problem is not apathy. Voters will not vote so long as a culture of corrupt, "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" type politics is in power. Until politicians start addressing the needs of real people and actually get in touch with the real world, particularly for local councillors, they can't moan when voters turn against them. Disillusioned left voters are easy pickings for the right. As democracy allows, until things change I just won't vote.
Andy, Nottm., UK

I hope the rest of Western Europe does not see immigrants as a hindrance to their success

Jon, Morristown, NJ USA
I have to say that France's far right vote is not much of a surprise if one looks at their efforts to "protect" their culture over the years from not only the US and immigrant groups but the EU as well. Some people still don't understand that the more diverse your culture is the more flexible and robust your nation will be. The West's population is not growing and in some cases dwindling. I hope the rest of Western Europe does not see immigrants as a hindrance to their success but as a breath of fresh air and blood. Allowing more immigrants in and accepting what they bring to the table is key to France's and Europe's long term success. Fighting for a return to the good old days when France was once dominated by a single distinct culture is harmful to her future success, growth and place in world politics.
Jon, Morristown, NJ USA

Le Pen tops Jospin and the European and French Leftist elites have a fit. Amazing. Why is the "Far Right" in France considered more a threat to liberty than the "Far Left?" They're both rotten. If Le Pen is tainted by Nazi/Fascist ideology, why aren't the Communist/Marxist/ Trotskyite parties in France tainted by the regimes these ideologies foisted on Russia, China, East Germany, etc.?
Ned, California USA

France is an extreme case, however, the frustration that many people feel at their government's inability to address their concerns, is typical across Europe. Local government in the UK is a farce, while at national level, politicians busy themselves pandering to minorities. People voted for Le Pen as a protest against the complacent smugness of the main parties. It's a shot across the bows. Rather than lambasting Le Pen, Tony Blair should ask himself "why did it happen"?
Mark, UK

To Mark, USA: I have to disagree with you. Although the UK is having problems with its social services, overall western Europeans enjoy better public transportation and more accessable health care, two areas where the US fails. They also have the luxury of not having their votes intercepted by the Electoral College, the worst mistake our founding fathers made. I don't think this vote is because of bureaucracy, as you say; I think plain and simple, it is because Chirac is too "Paris-centric" and failed to address concerns of a large proportion of the population. They are now using their votes to be heard. With any luck Chirac will respond in a way that they find sufficient.
Jennifer Ethington, USA

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way European governance works

Mark, USA
The underlying frustration that gave rise to this latest expression of rebellion in France and elsewhere shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way European governance works. It apparently fails to meet the needs of a significant segment of the population to pursue a happy fulfilling life. The heavy handed bureaucracy that Europeans are accustomed to and accept allows the individual only three options; escape, resignation, or revolt. When enough like-minded individuals who choose this third option unite, the result can be a dangerously explosive mixture for an entire society. But failure to recognize and deal with the underlying cause makes its manifestation over and over again inevitable. And to dismiss it as a mere aberration of a particular segment of a particular country at a particular time is to ignore the clear warning signals. And that is the most dangerous course of all.
Mark, USA

It is funny that many of the anti-fascist/Le Pen posters seem to feel it is OK for them to dictate what people should think, feel and be allowed to say and vote for. Such postings a real example of how I define Fascism!
Noel, London, UK

Unfortunately, in the contemporary society, there will be another trend in growth toward right wing politics

Stuart, Wales
Unfortunately, in the contemporary society, there will be another trend in growth toward right wing politics. The issues that caused 'modernised' men and women to vote for Nazism (in perspective though it was only a fifth of the population who actually joined the party), are again appearing. Once again dull ineffectual liberal politics are only helping to fan the flames. Fascism as a concept is just as radical as communism, and both have been guilty of incredible crimes. However, the main difference being that the Left have Marx et al who have written rationally about their ideas on social thought etc, whereas the Right have far less support from theorists (with the exception of Herder and Fichter). Fascism as a concept, apart from meaning all things to all men, is also a radical way of getting things done.
Stuart, Wales

The Right is the natural politics of a nation state. Everyone wants what is best for them and their country, and as patriotism rises, so does the support of the Right wing. It is essential that Far-Right groups do not get massive support, however, as that will result in a situation like in the run up to WW2, with persecution and prejudice running wild. However, I believe that France would be better off with a Far-Right President than an incumbent one. Or perhaps they should bring back their monarchy?...
Chris Hawes, Great Britain

Inevitably, French politics will not be the same for some time. Public opinion has been changing for quite some time and seems to be in the most part a response to the asylum crisis. The French society, like ours, is very open to other cultures and that is something to be proud of. The recent swing to the right does not mean that the acceptance of other cultures has diminished but rather that the French public are responding through the only possible channel to state that they want to see some changes made to the immigration system. France has a broadly similar problem as the UK when it comes to the asylum system, but both governments are working towards a fair and just system. I think we can be quite certain that this would never happen in England.
Ben, UK

This climate of fear of change is fertile ground for extremism to flourish and even spread

Jacob, Canada
There is nothing new about this extremist phenomenon - this is all about fear of change. Look all around, and you will see this fear of change throughout the world today in all facets of life. There are those in society who want to take advantage of this fear of change by whipping up sentiments in the populace to further their own agendas. It is easy to deflect responsibility and cast blame on someone else. They pander to the false belief that returning to the glory of the past, or at the very least maintaining the status quo will solve all their problems. There are no short-term solutions to any of these perceived "problems", and they all know it fully well. But so long as there are people willing to hand over their powers to others, they will attempt to coerce them by any means possible. So this climate of fear of change is fertile ground for extremism to flourish and even spread.
Jacob, Canada

Stop barking at the French, they have done what many others did during an election, they voted against a party that they felt was not acting in their own best interests. Beside come the next election a new party might be voted into office, for the same reasons.
Vickie Reeves, USA

Now there is a lesson to be learnt for current governing parties in the rest of EU nations other than France. Mr. Le Pen has won the second place in the first round just because the French people wanted it that way. There is no mystery about it. If the current government is not doing their homework, people are going to look for an alternative and probably at the end there will be a price to be paid even if the election is democratic. Now is the time for an intelligent vote or afterwards France will live to regret it if a wrong decision is made.
Octavio Bustamante, Tijuana, México

If mainstream parties continue to disregard public opinion on important issues because discussing them has become taboo these things will keep happening.
Mike Taylor, UK

The reaction of both the media and the mainstream parties towards Le Pen's election success, is likely to increase the swing to the far right. They are dismissing a democratic result and in doing so are further exposing their reluctance to tackle issues such as immigration and crime in a more direct and aggressive way. Meanwhile figures around Europe such as Mr Blair are telling people how they should and shouldn't vote. This is strengthening Le Pen's claim that Europe is trying to control and shape France. Thus, Mr Blair's appeal to the French people will probably secure Le Pen a few more votes than he otherwise would have received. The social discontent in France is shared by voters in most European countries and therefore it would not surprise me to see a widespread move towards the far right.
Leon Richardson, UK I agree with Damien - he has a valid point to be taken note of. British people are losing their traditional ways to ethnic minorities, there are places in Britain where even Christmas cannot be celebrated because of the ethnic community - this is ridiculous and should be stopped. Politicians should start looking after their people and their country first.
Warren, London UK

I can't believe some of the crypto-racism and total lack of ignorance by some of the posts from the UK. Damien from the UK, have you actually met anyone from anyone from an ethnic minority? Do any of you actually socialise or tried to socialise with them? Immigrants make up 2-5 percent of the population of this country contrary to what the tabloid press would have us believe, and in the majority of cases, they do try and integrate into British society. If you want a belief system in this country which practically the whole of the civilized world fought against in the 2nd World war, then vote for a far right party. If you want a party that claims the holocaust did not happen or was a mere detail of history, then vote for them. Remember, that most British people originate from immigrant stock, be it Roman, Celtic, Norman, Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Norman, French, Jewish, Afro-Caribbean, Asian or whatever. It's nothing new. In times of crisis, the people always look for easy scapegoats. Learn your own history first before jumping to conclusions.
Anonymous, UK

I believe that an extremist party could easily get a large following in Britain.

Damien, UK
I believe that an extremist party could easily get a large following in Britain. Many people in this country of English origin are extremely concerned by the large immigrant communities in places like Leicester and Bradford. People fear that the immigrants could eventually outnumber the pure English citizens - therefore, some people might decide "enough is enough, we want our country back". To handle this, I believe that there should be some restrictions, not as harsh as the extremist policies stated by Le Pen, but things along the lines of: people cannot stay in Britain unless they speak English, ethnic groups cannot demand government money to be spent on specialist schools. If all of the immigrants adapt to the traditional living style of the country, I'm sure there will be no problems. Just look at, for example, the black people from the West Indies - they fit in well with the English style of living and hence there are very few racist problems with this group of people.
Damien, UK

See also:

03 May 02 | Europe
French campaign gets personal
03 May 02 | UK Politics
Witnessing the BNP success
02 Mar 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
The return of Haider?
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories