A French prosecutor in the city of Nanterre asked the EU parliament to lift the immunity of National Front leader Marine LePen for posting "violent images" and "incitement of terrorism" on Twitter. The images were of ISIS murders.
Yesterday, the parliament voted to allow LePen's prosecution. The loss of immunity for LePen is just the latest roadblock establishment French politicians are seeking to put in the nationalist's way.
French law prohibits the distribution of violent images or incitement of terrorism.As is the case elsewhere in the world, including the US, the old political verities in France are crumbling in the face of voter rage at the corruption and incompetence of political elites. France has been mired in economic stagnation for more than two decades. Attempts to rein in public spending - which accounts for an astonishing 57% of GDP, have failed. A quarter of French youth under the age of 25 are unemployed. Many more are working jobs that don't pay enough for them to go out and live on their own.
Announcing the result of the vote on whether to lift the immunity, EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani said a "clear majority" of members backed the motion.
Le Pen told CNN she's not worried about her immunity being lifted.
"I notice that freedom of expression of an EU member of Parliament who denounces the actions of ISIS allows the French government to take her to court," she said. "I will express myself in court and say what I think of all this. ... "
As a member of the EU Parliament, Le Pen, leader of the National Front, enjoys immunity that covers freedom of speech -- but that immunity can be lifted if authorities of the person's member state makes a request.
In this case, a prosecutor in Nanterre, in the west of Paris, made the request.
Under French law, the maximum penalty for distributing violent images is three years in prison and a fine of up to 75,000 euros (about $79,000).
The lifting of Le Pen's immunity relates to this case only, and any action is unlikely to occur before the first round of voting in the French presidential election on April 23.
A representative of Nanterre prosecutor's office said Thursday that it was too early to say when an indictment decision would be made.
It's not the first time the EU Parliament has lifted Le Pen's immunity; it took a similar step in 2013.
She was then prosecuted in 2015 with "incitement to discrimination over people's religious beliefs" after she compared Muslims praying in public to the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. She was acquitted by a court in Lyon.
This insightful article in The Economist, calls the French presidential election "the most exciting in living memory" as the two major parties are likely to be eliminated in the first round of voting in April.
The Socialist and Republican parties, which have held power since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958, could be eliminated in the first round of a presidential ballot on April 23rd. French voters may face a choice between two insurgent candidates: Marine Le Pen, the charismatic leader of the National Front, and Emmanuel Macron, the upstart leader of a liberal movement, En Marche! (On the Move!), which he founded only last year.So LePen must be stopped, not only because she represents an end to the mutli-culti, "let's be tolerant toward our Muslim children who know not what they do," but also because her election would signify the total failure of French elites to run other people's lives. That they could consider prosecuting her for trying to alert the French people to the barbarity of the people who are murdering Frenchmen in the streets and playgrounds of Paris speaks volumes of where their priorities lie.
The implications of these insurgencies are hard to exaggerate. They are the clearest example yet of a global trend: that the old divide between left and right is growing less important than a new one between open and closed. The resulting realignment will have reverberations far beyond France’s borders. It could revitalise the European Union, or wreck it.
The revolution’s proximate cause is voters’ fury at the uselessness and self-dealing of their ruling class. The Socialist president, François Hollande, is so unpopular that he is not running for re-election. The established opposition, the centre-right Republican party, saw its chances sink on March 1st when its standard-bearer, François Fillon, revealed that he was being formally investigated for paying his wife and children nearly €1m ($1.05m) of public money for allegedly fake jobs. Mr Fillon did not withdraw from the race, despite having promised to do so. But his chances of winning are dramatically weakened.
Further fuelling voters’ anger is their anguish at the state of France (see article). One poll last year found that French people are the most pessimistic on Earth, with 81% grumbling that the world is getting worse and only 3% saying that it is getting better. Much of that gloom is economic. France’s economy has long been sluggish; its vast state, which absorbs 57% of GDP, has sapped the country’s vitality. A quarter of French youths are unemployed. Of those who have jobs, few can find permanent ones of the sort their parents enjoyed. In the face of high taxes and heavy regulation those with entrepreneurial vim have long headed abroad, often to London. But the malaise goes well beyond stagnant living standards. Repeated terrorist attacks have jangled nerves, forced citizens to live under a state of emergency and exposed deep cultural rifts in the country with Europe’s largest Muslim community.
LePen is not savior, but the movement she represents could signal a revival of the French spirit - so long suppressed by EU elites in Brussels who see any manifestation of nationalism anywhere on the continent as a threat to their existence. Given the odds, LePen may not win the presidency. But she will have made her party and her movement a force to be reckoned with for years to come