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Expats Against Immigration: Le Pen Voters in Morocco

Marine Le Pen

By Alexander Jusdanis

Rabat – French expats residing in Morocco open up about their support for the far-right party Le Front National in a recent profile by HuffPost Maroc.

In the 2012 French presidential elections, Marine Le Pen’s Le Front National (FN) received 569 votes from French nationals living in Morocco. While these votes represented only 3.65% of eligible French voters in Morocco, the question remains: how can a foreign resident of Morocco support extreme nationalism in their own country?

“It’s a bit of a paradox to support a party that wants to stop welcoming foreigners,” Olivier Deau, a communications representative for l’École de Gouvernance et d’Économie and member of the Fédération des Français à l’étranger du Parti Socialiste, told HuffPost Maroc. “FN members in Morocco are perhaps persuaded that le clivage identitaire exists, or they feel nostalgia for the “Franco-Française” era or the imperial age.”

Long-Distance Nationalism

The Le Pen supporters interviewed displayed a strong attachment to their home country. “I have adhered to the ideas of the FN only recently, since I saw the state of the French economy deteriorate,” said Jean, 70, born in Morocco. “I love the country and I wish that it be directed differently.”

“I love France,” said Frédéric, 49, “because it is a country of freedoms.”

The voters seemed to agree that immigration was a critical issue facing France. Despite living abroad, they feared that their country was falling apart.

“I’ve had enough of these shit policies which, for ages, have been living on our backs,” said Philippe, 55. “I’m also sick of those who come to make a mess in France. In the inner cities, the police can no longer enter. […] I’m not racist, I have Moroccan friends who are also ashamed of those people there. They don’t go to France except for to do business selling drugs, and to steal.”

Jean asked, “Why do we open our doors when we can no longer afford to? To have future French who vote for the left and benefit from social welfare? There is too much of a burden, and nobody knows in whose pockets it will land”

Moroccan Patriotism: a Model for the FN?

Interestingly, some voters suggested that their strong feelings of nationalism developed as a result of living in Morocco.

“I began to have a political awareness at 15,” said Jacques, 29, “but I was convinced of the ideas of the National Front when I [started living] in Arab countries. In discussion with residents, I discovered the meaning of patriotism.”

Frédéric agreed: “I discovered in Morocco a national priority: the country takes care of its citizens.” In contrast, he claimed that “if you wear the French flag in our country, you’re treated like a racist. We have to put all that in place.”

According to Deau, FN supporters living in Morocco might be responding to “a construction of discourse in the FN that makes the vote make sense. Morocco is a profoundly nationalist country, [and] it’s a little like what the FN proposes.”

To Frédéric, a vote for the FN would simply protect France’s core national values. The problem of migration in France, it’s that the people that come want to impose their ideology. In Ramadan in Morocco, I respect and I close my door. In France, we are a laïc country, and those that come to live there must respect that. Marine Le Pen leads this fight, that of freedoms.”

FN Immigration Policies: a Model for Morocco?

When the numbers of FN voters living in Morocco were revealed after the 2012 elections, Moroccans responded by setting up a Facebook event with the title “Repatriation of the 569 French residents in Morocco who voted for Le Pen.” Only one day after the event was created, over 1300 users had joined.

“Put them on a raft in the middle of the Mediterranean, on a stormy day, with little chance,” read one post on the event, while another said, “I am ready to dedicate an entire day to go back and forth getting them to the airport. And because I am nice, it’ll be free. After all, we all Moroccans, we love providing service!”

In a report on the Facebook page by Yabiladi, a reader gave their explanation for the strong reaction to the FN voters: “569 French living with us and voting Le Pen, it’s unbelievable! They too are immigrants. They live with us, eat our bread and they hate us. When will Morocco also call for a selective immigration policy? In Morocco too, we are called ‘bougnoules’ or ‘dirty Arabs’! What are the French living in Morocco complaining about? They have more advantages than Moroccans and they still adhere to racist and xenophobic ideas. Do they believe they’re still in the era of French colonialism? I would advise you to see a psychic about that, because you’re walking on your head and you sleep standing in broad daylight!”

French Nationalist Values

The FN has had an ambiguous relationship with Morocco in recent years.

In January, the fervently anti-immigration party praised the Moroccan government’s ban of production and sale of the burqa, saying “Once more, it’s from a Muslim country that an example of steadfastness in the fight against the Islamist scourge. […] The law on wearing of the burqa must be tougher and applied at last, [and] as well all forms of Islamist proselytizing must be banned.”

Earlier, the FN was accused of hypocrisy in 2015 when, in contrast to their vocal support of products “Made in France”, the labels of their campaign t-shirts revealed that they had in fact been “Made in Morocco” and “Made in China”.

The French presidential elections will take place in two rounds in April and May, with Le Pen’s far-right FN in close competition with independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and his party, En Marche!

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