The Front National Must Be Put in a European Perspective

French far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech following the announcement of results in the seco
French far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech following the announcement of results in the second round of French regional elections in Henin-Beaumont on December 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / DENIS CHARLET / AFP / DENIS CHARLET (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)

The three-party government which is established with the strengthening of the Front National at above 25 percent, exists already in other Western European countries where the extreme right has broken through or approached the threshold. Political systems react differently to the structural modification of the ideological landscape of the right, which constitutes a real challenge to classical liberalism not unlike "enlightened conservatism." Between inclusion and cordon sanitaire (sanitary cordon), how does this happen outside of our borders?

The French situation is closely tied to the historic origins of the Front National, to its indisputable enrollment, at least at its base, in the historic tradition of the extreme-right. It is this filiation which, in the '90s, posed a problem for the populist, xenophobic right parties which emerged elsewhere in Europe and which, like the Norwegian Progress Party or the Swiss People's Party (UDC) refused, just as the the British eurosceptics of the UKIP, to establish institutional contacts with the FN. When we trace the map of the extreme right in Western Europe in 2015, we can only be struck by the fact that the openly fascist or neofascist parties, whose inclusion in the "mainstream" politics is impossible (they don't seek it either!), have become totally marginal.

On the other hand, two other categories of movements are making their mark both in terms of lifespan and representativeness. The first are those whose origins are located at the extreme-right but which tend to want to "cut the moorings" with their original anchorings without doing so completely: thus, the FN, the Swedish Democrats, the Austrian FPÖ and the Flemish Vlaams Belang (VB). The second are the nationalist parties, identity-based and eurosceptic who originate from the family of the right parties for consensus democracy, but who mark their difference with them by an ethnocentric and culturalist vision of society.

In fact, with the exception of the Austrian FPÖ at the time of the period during which it was a partner in power, the parties born of the extreme-right were subjected to a total cordon sanitaire posing the problem of its theoretical justification (can we durably exclude from power a segment of the electorate equivalent to around a quarter of it, when the parties concerned are not dissenting?) and of its practical effectiveness? With the exception of the massive downfall of the VB, going from 12.6 percent to 5.9 percent of Flemish votes, by a phenomenon of siphoning off carried out by a more moderate independent party (the NVA), the cordon sanitaire is not weakening them.

The strong FPÖ of 17.54 percent in 2013, got 30.79 percent in the municipalities of Vienna in October 2015 and remains the third party in power. The nationalist Swedish Democrats, who went from 5.7 percent in 2010 to 12.9 percent in 2014, are currently credited with 20 percent of likely votes. And the FN is at its highest level of support. The attitude of the cordon sanitaire is not tenable, in a purely practical plan, unless we are content with a democracy with one-third excluded, making the famous three-party government which emerged following the regional elections in France quite imperfect.

Other options exist. The first is that of "policy-bargaining": the populist xenophobic parties remain outside of government coalitions but bargain their parliamentary support to minority governments, in exchange for concessions on immigration policy in particular. The results for the Danish People's Party (21.1 percent of votes against 11.3 percent in 2011) are rather encouraging, since it is higher in elections when it supports the right than when it is in the opposition. On the contrary, they are worse off for the Freedom Party of the Dutch Geert Wilders (11 percent of the votes), victim of his anti-European positioning in a country totally open to foreign cultural influences and whose economy is based on exports.

the true finnsTimo Soini, chairman of the True Finns, a nationalist, Eurosceptic party that has gained popularity in Finland.

The "policy-bargaining" can be done in another framework: that of participation in the halls of the government. It is the choice of Norway, Finland, and Switzerland. The effects are diverse. The Norwegian Progress Party fell to 16.3 percent (it had 22.9 percent in 2013) and then saw a reversal of the earlier municipal elections of last September (9.5 percent). The True Finns (17.65 percent in April 2015 compared to 19.1 percent earlier) were credited in August with only 10.7 percent of likely votes, as a result of their incapacity to influence the immigration policy, to stop the Finnish contribution to Greek aid and to get convincing economic results.

Only the Swiss People's Party (UDC), with 29.4 percent in the October 2015 elections, reaps in each election the fruits of a long-standing presence in the political landscape, tracing its origin to the Party of Farmers (Conservative Agrarian) founded during the First World War. The first party of the Confederation, it succeeded in influencing the course of national policy, without the federal institutions being shaken up nor Switzerland seeing a weakening of democratic norms.

Rather than sudden and table-overturning victories, the future of the radical right in Western Europe possibly lies in a capacity to be maintained in the very long-term, in modifying their "revolutionary" dimension and in being satisfied with it being a force of rebalancing at the heart of the right. With a little common ground: nationalist identity, defense of national sovereignty and traditional moral values. And with an impasse: that of economic positioning, between state-interventionist aspirations and tempered liberalism by the national preference which remains more often than not, the line of division between tempered conservatism and radicalism.

This post first appeared on HuffPost France. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.