Villiers, Philippe de


Villiers, Philippe de
   Right-wing nationalist politician, leader of the sovereignist Mouvement pour la France (Movement for France) party. An aristocrat from the Vendée department of western France, de Villiers was for six years (1987-1993) a député (member of parliament) for Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's centre-right UDF party. He was briefly Secretary of State for communication under Jacques Chirac. Since 1997, he has sat as an independent ("non-inscrit") member of parliament for Vendée. De Villiers benefits from very strong popular support in his fief of Vendée, and is regularly returned with huge majorities - which is quite surprising for a politician of the far right. However it is as leader of the MPF and as for his action as a local politician that he has really made his mark.
   It was in the 1977 that he first created the "Cinéscénie" son et lumière historical reenactment spectacle at le Puy du Fou, a castle in Vendée; since then, he has transformed the site into one of the biggest tourist attractions in France, with the addition of a permanent historical theme park. In 1988 he was elected leader of the Vendée county council (Président du conséil général), a position that he has held ever since.
   Thanks to his aristocratic catholic family background, and his personal charisma, de Villiers has managed to achieve a status as the acceptable face of right-wing nationalism, quite different from that of the other right-wing leaders in France, such as Jean Marie Le Pen of the National Front. In spite of a number of brushes with the law following various pronouncements on Islam and immigration, de Villiers remains popular. His strident participation in the debate over the European Constitution was certainly a factor that contributed to French voters' rejection of the project in the 2005 referendum. However, when competing on a national stage, de Villiers' real position as a marginal figure in French politics is more apparent. As a candidate in the 2007 Presidential Election, he scored just 2.2% of the vote, and even in his Vendée heartland, only 11.3% of voters chose him in the first round.

Dictionnaire Français-Anglais. Agriculture Biologique. 2014.

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