Report May 2015 (FN, suffrage, Cuba)

National Front Patriarch Loses Grip

France, 20 Apr – 18 May 2015

Jean-Marie Le Pen loses power struggle against his daughter ++ A history of female suffrage ++ François Hollande visits Cuba.
by Matthieu Choblet

Jean-Marie Le Pen loses power struggle against his daughter

The executive bureau of the far-right party National Front (FN) suspended its honorary member Jean-Marie Le Pen. The decision was initiated by Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen and current president of the FN, following a provocative interview given by her father. Le Pen, co-founder of the FN in 1972 and its uncontested leader until 2011 has repeatedly caught attention for the belittlement of the Holocaust. So far Marine Le Pen had narrowed her father’s racist and anti-Semitic remarks as mere “political errors”. However, the renewed claim that Holocaust was “a detail of history” was the last straw.

Marine Le Pen wishes that her father should “no longer be able to speak in the name of the FN”, as she is eager to reshape the party’s reputation. While the FN did well in the last elections, it has been so far unable to win or set up an effective majority (see French Report Feb/Mar 2015). Well-informed circles of the party reckon that it may not be able to win such a crucial majority as long as it is publicly recognisable as an extremist party.

In the months to come a general party meeting will be held. Members will be expected to abolish the party’s honorary chairmanship and to vote on a new statute. By means of the reform the executive bureau wishes to “bring the party’s organisation to perfection”. Meanwhile, Mr Le Pen, who still holds his seat in the European Parliament, fumes at what he calls a “criminal betrayal”. He has urged his daughter to get married so she would no longer carry his name.


A history of female suffrage

70 years ago, on 29th April 1945, women in France were allowed to vote for the first time. The country, which in 1789 had taken a pioneering role to put Enlightment into practice, took a long time to grant equal rights. During the Revolution, Olympe de Gouges was famously executed under the guillotine for challenging authority with her abolitionist and feminist demands. The ordinance of April 1944 (and later on the Constitution of 1946) finally opened up the way for a renewed liberal spirit.

Today, 94 years old Blanche Lacroix remembers how she went to the election office in 1945 together with her parents: “My mother turned to me and asked: ‘Would you give your ballot to your father?’ She wouldn’t even think of voting herself”.

Social scientists point out that equal rights on paper do not automatically lead to an emancipated participation in societal concerns. Nowadays, the divide in political participation runs less along the lines of sex then of social condition. According to the Ministry of the Interior voting abstention at the last elections in March reached 50 per cent. The opinion that “voting won’t change anything” was particularly recurrent among constituencies with a high proportion of low income earners.

What’s more, equal rights and the principles of mutual respect also need to be lived on a daily basis, as critiques point out. Recently, 40 women in political journalism published a common manifesto to denounce sexism and contemptuousness by political representatives they have encountered during their career.


François Hollande visits Cuba

French President François Hollande visited Cuba, where he met with former head of state and ‘Maximo líder’ Fidel Castro. “I found him to be fully awake, with sharp senses and very well informed. He also makes use of the internet”, reported Hollande after his meeting with the man who for decades had had a tight grip on the flow of information inside his regime. It is said that during the 50 minute encounter difficult subjects such as human rights were avoided.

However, the journey to the Caribbean was not meant to be a pure pleasure trip or just an attempt to regain the sympathies of socialist voters in France. The French delegation was able to secure drilling rights along the Cuban coast for the multinational oil and gas company Total.

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