France’s disillusioned farmers turn to far-right Le Pen

Poll shows farmers are increasingly giving up on politicians altogether, with 51 per cent of the 300 surveyed saying they would not vote –

PLESSE: France’s presidential pretenders will this week make mandatory campaign stops at the annual Paris farm fair as polls show farmers increasingly tempted by the far-right’s Marine Le Pen when they even bother to vote at all.
Though only a fraction of the population still works in the farm sector, voters remain attached to the country’s agrarian roots, making the annual agriculture fair a fixture of the political calendar.
“Lots of us farmers are pinning our hopes on Marine,” dairy and poultry farmer Mickael Thomas said as he set up for the nine-day-long show.”We see her with farmers more than other candidates.”
Polls now show Le Pen placing first in a first round of France’s presidential election in April and losing in the second round to a single candidate from the centre-left or centre-right.
But that race has tightened, raising the prospect that the National Front leader could become the first far-right politician to win power through the ballot box in Western Europe since World War Two.
After years of crisis in the sector and perceived indifference from other candidates, Le Pen’s anti-EU anti-globalisation rhetoric strikes a chord with many farmers, once faithful voters for mainstream conservatives.
A Cevipof poll for Le Monde newspaper published on Feb. 16 showed that 35 per cent of farmers who plan to vote will back Le Pen in the election, compared to 26 per cent of the general population.
Conservative Francois Fillon and centrist Emmanuel Macron are both on 20 perc ent among farmers, close to their ratings overall.
The same poll also showed farmers are increasingly giving up on politicians altogether, with 51 per cent of the 300 surveyed saying they would not vote.
“Farmers were always the French people who voted the most. They voted like they went to mass,” said sociologist Francois Purseigle.”What’s surprising about this survey is that they might not go.”
The mascot of this year’s farm show, a six-year-old dairy cow called “Fine”, hails from an organic farm in the western French town of Plesse — historically Socialist territory.
But even here, the National Front is making inroads. The party’s vote more than tripled in December 2015 regional elections compared with the previous poll in 2010.
Dairy farming is vital to the local economy but has struggled since 2015 as plummeting prices, the end of EU quotas and Russian sanctions inspired by the Ukraine crisis hit hard.
“We don’t have faith anymore,” a representative for the FNSEA farmers’ union in the region, Yoann Vetu, said.
— Reuters