The National Front, the country's far-right party, is expected to score well at the May European elections, and a poll released Sunday by IFOP found that 29 percent of French people would like to see electoral lists from right-wing UMP party win at the March municipal elections ahead of the Socialist Party.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls told the Journal du Dimanche that the country is "witnessing the creation of the French version of the tea party," adding that "by exploiting the political and leadership crisis on the right, and the National Front party's move away from the far right, a conservative and reactionary right has been set free."
At the height of its powers last year, members of the U.S. tea party played a major role in the deadlock over the budget and deficit in Washington, closing down government for more than two weeks. Could the same happen in France?
Thomas Guénolé, senior lecturer at French university Sciences Politiques, has his doubts. The French version of the party, he says, is yet to have the clout of its stateside counterpart due to its lack of "political development strategy, ideological stance and money."
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When it comes to the shift to the right of French society, Guénolé admits there is a "Le Penisation" of the society. The Le Pen family is the powerhouse of the French far right, and since Marine Le Pen's election to party leadership, the National Front has gained in popularity.
Ideas championed by the Le Pens, once easily discredited, have now become mainstream, Guénolé said. A majority of French people now agree with the idea that immigration is source of unemployment or that Islam is incompatible with the French Republic.
Both leaders appear to want a lot out of this state visit and were keen to emphasize the two countries' closeness. In a joint letter published simultaneously in The Washington Post and Le Monde on Monday, they wrote of their friendship "stretching back more than two centuries" and of their "deepening partnership," mentioning trade deals, climate change and their combined effort in Africa where France has taken a leading role, first in Mali and in the Central African Republic.
In a rare treat for a state visit, Hollande will enjoy a ride on Air Force One, but many might chose to focus on the fact that the French president will be flying solo, since his separation with long-term girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler at the end of January after reports that he had been cheating on her with actress Julie Gayet.