That ploy didn’t work this time, even though the turnout was unusually high for a by-election as almost half of registered voters casting ballots. Last week, a French opinion poll on voting intentions for the European Parliament elections in May found the FN in the lead, ahead of both the ruling Socialist Party and the main conservative opposition, the Union for a Popular Majority. The poll, in the respected weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, gave the FN 24 percent, against 22 percent for the conservatives and 19 percent for the Socialists. “The FN is changing in nature. Its place is no longer at the margins of the political game but at the center,” the magazine commented in an editorial. In Holland, the anti-immigrant Party for Freedom, known by its Dutch initials PVV and led by Geert Wilders , also leads in opinion polls, as the coalition centrist government grapples with an austerity program required by its partners in the European Union. In Austria last month, the anti-immigrant Austrian Freedom Party won more than 20 percent of the vote and almost stopped the ruling grand coalition of the two main center-right and center-left parties from getting a majority of the votes. Across Europe, a tide seems to be running. But identifying the precise nature of that tide is harder than it looks. In France and Holland, and in Norway where the conservatives rose to power with tough promises to curb immigration, the tide seems to be against immigration. But the outpouring of sympathy last week when more than 300 would-be illegal immigrants drowned on a boat that sank en route from Libya to Italy suggests that Europe isn’t exactly being swept by racism. In other countries in Europe, the more potent issue seems to be frustration with the European Union and its institutions, widely blamed for the policies of austerity which have sent unemployment sky-rocketing to more than 20 percent in several countries. In Britain the U.K. Independence Party, which favors pulling out of the European Union altogether, is rising in the polls and claims to be the country’s legitimate third party.
But is it enough? Post to Facebook France’s retirement reform: Too little, too late? on USATODAY.com: http://usat.ly/1aFlQMF Incorrect please try again A link has been posted to your Facebook feed. Sent! A link has been sent to your friend’s email address. 3 To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the Conversation Guidelines and FAQs France’s retirement reform: Too little, too late? USATODAY 3:22 p.m. EDT October 14, 2013 French President Francois Hollande French President Hollande managed to changed the pension system by working with unions Still, they plan protests Tuesday And critics says he succeeded by making small changes that won’t achieve what’s necessary SHARE 5 CONNECT 26 TWEET 3 COMMENTEMAILMORE PARIS (AP) President Francois Hollande has managed to do what was once thought impossible: Make changes to France’s cherished and generous retirement system with little resistance from unions. His secret? The changes are so small and put off so far into the future that economists say they aren’t worthy of the name “reform.” Labor unions were calling for protests across France on Tuesday. But the demonstrations are not expected to turn into the massive protests that brought cities to a standstill in 2010, when Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, raised the retirement age.