Jihadi Attack in Paris Could Affect French Elections

Security fears may spur last-minute boost for terror, immigration hawk Le Pen

by Edmund Kozak | Updated 21 Apr 2017 at 12:42 PM

“Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!” President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday. He is most likely correct.

The Islamic terrorist attack on the Champ-Élysées in Paris on Thursday — which occurred only three days prior to the French presidential election — could have significant implications for the outcome of the contest.

“I appeal to the awakening of the thousand-year-old soul of our people, capable of opposing bloodthirsty barbarism.”

The French election, which currently has four candidates with enough support to vie for the runoff, has been marked by the issues of security and immigration, issues once again brought to the fore after Thursday’s attack — which occurred as the candidates were debating live on television.

After learning of the news, right-wing populist candidate Marine Le Pen, who is currently and for all intents and purposes tied with left-wing candidate Emmanuel Macron, said that France has had “enough of laxism, enough of naivety.”

On Friday, Le Pen issued a stirring statement, demanding among other things the immediate deportation of individuals on the country’s “S” list — a designation given to potential national-security risks.

“I appeal to the awakening of the thousand-year-old soul of our people, capable of opposing bloodthirsty barbarism with a resolution which nothing intimidates, an energy that nothing breaks, a firmness that nothing bends,” Le Pen said in her statement.

“To this notoriously flawed president, to this ephemeral government, worn out by inaction, as have all the right and left governments for 10 years, I only ask … him solemnly to order the effective restoration of our borders under the Schengen Treaty and the immediate administrative or penal processing of the S files, that is to say of all the individuals present on our soil, known for their adhesion to the ideology of the enemy,” she said.

For weeks Le Pen has been effectively neck-and-neck with Macron, but polling released Thursday saw a drop in Le Pen’s support. On Thursday morning, Le Pen and Macron were separated by just over one percentage point, according to Bloomberg’s aggregate of French polling.

But by day’s end, Macron had crept up to sit two full points ahead of Le Pen — 23.8 to 21.8 percent — while Fillon has broken 20 percent for the first time in days. The aftermath of Thursday’s attack could see Macron’s last-minute lead evaporate, and bolster Le Pen, who had already been increasing her anti-immigration rhetoric ahead of the final stretch of the race.

“We must be intransigent with the mortal danger that fundamentalist Islam represents for our country,” Le Pen reportedly said over the weekend. In February, she denounced “Islamist globalization” — an “ideology that wants to bring France to its knees.”

“France has been one of the nations most severely affected by the specter of Islamic terrorism, and it is difficult to ignore immigration as a root cause.The logic would suggest this would further support Le Pen’s case,” Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group, the UK’s oldest conservative think tank, told LifeZette.

However, Harris-Quinney cautioned, "all leading candidates in the French election claim to represent a new way of doing things."

Indeed, in addition to possibly giving Le Pen a boost in the polls, the attack might see a lift for Fillon to become Le Pen's most significant opponent, as he, too — in an effort to ape Le Pen and steal away some of her support — has delivered increasingly strong rhetoric against the dangers of mass migration and militant Islam.

After hearing news of the attack on Thursday, Francois Fillon told the debate audience that "the fight against terrorism must be the absolute priority of the next French president." In January, the candidate promised "strict administrative control of the Muslim faith" if elected.

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