Terrorism in France credited with rightward turn by millennials

by WorldTribune Staff, December 28, 2016

Mass casualty terror attacks and high unemployment are driving French millennials toward a conservative party typically labeled ultra-right by the media.

Marine Le Pen’s National Front is the political party with the most support among French citizens aged 18-34, according to a report released by polling organization Odoxa on Dec. 16.

Marine Le Pen with supporters at an election rally in Lyon. /AP
Marine Le Pen with supporters at an election rally in Lyon. /AP

Millennials are increasingly drawn to Le Pen’s platform which includes exiting the European Union, stopping free movement at the French border, sending asylum seekers back to their native countries, and introducing tariffs as part of protectionist economic policies to put “France first.”

Sebastien Faustini, 18, joined the National Front after the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice that killed 86 people. Faustini stayed home with his cousin and watched the Bastille Day events unfold on TV.

“We could have been there,” said Faustini, who is now forced to pass by the scene of attack daily on his way to university. “Every day that hits me.”

Faustini told NBC News that “certain media organizations stigmatize members of the National Front calling them fascists, insults that have nothing to do with the party’s program.”

French millennials who are backing the National Front say they feel vindicated by what they call the “wave” — Brexit, the U.S. election of Donald Trump and the Italian vote against constitutional reforms — sweeping across the West.

Bryan Masson, an 18-year-old student who runs the youth division of the National Front in Nice, recalled his excitement as he watched Trump’s triumph.

“For us it was a victory too,” Masson said.

He said Trump’s triumph was also an “extremely positive” sign for Le Pen, because she is also a candidate for the people who is working against the establishment in Paris.

Michael Payet, a friend of Masson, also plans to vote for Le Pen. Payet’s father is a police officer at the border who sees the flow of migrants daily.

“Most are not even Syrian,” Payet said. “We live 20 minutes from the door to France. It creates a real security problem.”

Many young Le Pen supporters agree that immigrants should assimilate to French culture, speak the language and even “eat French,” eliminating halal as a meal option.

Manon Bouquin, a 24-year-old history student, said “in public school, we learned about slavery and the Vichy government [which collaborated with the Nazis during World War II]. We only learn about the somber moments of French history … Kids with immigrant parents will hear that and not want to be French. We have to teach people to be patriotic.”

Nicolas Aslah, a 23-year-old student from Saint-Omer, a northern village in the Pas-de-Calais region, says his ancestors fought in World War II to defend France, not Europe.

“Europe is not something utopian,” he said. “It’s a betrayal.”

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