What could the rise of Marine Le Pen mean for Africa?

The Front National Party (FN) in France has made new strides in France following the regional elections, which held on Sunday. The party led in 6 of the 13 regions in France, causing national leader of the party, Marine Le Pen, to label the results ‘magnificent’. This event caps three years of resurgence from the formerly marginal party and will be relevant for presidential elections coming up in 2017. Particularly, the FN’s growing popularity also has far-reaching implications for Africa, and France’s relationship with Francophone countries within the continent.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father, founded the FN in 1972, and the party has been characterized as lslamophobic, xenophobic, nationalist. It has experienced a resurgence in recent years, after playing second fiddle to former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Republicains party and present President Francois Hollande’s Socialist party for much of its existence. However, the recent killings in Paris last month and the Charlie Hebdo killings in January, 2015, have given ammunition to the FN’s views on immigrants, and Islam.

Their emergence, however, has far-reaching consequences for African immigrants and Francophone countries. Collecting data based on race is illegal in France, but estimates say there are about “5 million French blacks and 7 million Arabs” in France and about 19 percent of the population of France, are immigrants or children of immigrants, who mostly come from former French colonies in Africa (mainly Algeria, Tunisia and francophone sub-Saharan countries).

If the FN wins the presidential elections in 2017, Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric will likely lead to a further increase in racism, hostility against immigrants of African descent and more prejudice. Front National’s rise is coming at a time when immigrants are seen as a threat to employment for French citizens, while also accused of attempting to impose some of their traditions and customs (e.g. Islam) on the French populace. It’s not farfetched to anticipate that if Marine Le Pen is elected, she would impose stricter policies to stop immigrants, especially Muslim African immigrants, from entering the country. Marine said, recently in a rally in France, “To merit French nationality, you have to speak French, eat French and live French.”

While it’s not 2017 yet, Le Pen and the FN’s growing popularity within France suggests a new age of French-African relations are on the horizon, and it won’t be pretty.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since first publishing.

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