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Analysis: French presidential election 2012

Far-right's Le Pen makes last bid for disillusioned Sarkozy voters

Reuters.
Text by: Tony Cross
4 min

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on Tuesday made a last pitch to win back voters who deserted her Front National for incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. A crowd of 6,000 cheered her attacks on immigration, the euro and “globalised elites” at a Paris concert hall.

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Le Pen lashed out at Socialist candidate François Hollande for tolerating corruption in the party, cosying up to the City of London and “abandoning the middle and working classes”.

Sarkozy on Wednesday made another bid for Le Pen’s voters.

“Who does a vote for Marine Le Pen help?” he asked. “François Hollande,” adding that the Socialist rule would mean more taxes and votes for foreigners.

She took a swipe at hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, accusing him of aspiring to a seat in a Socialist government.

But her chief target was the current president.

“You can’t get away from your record, your renunciations, your betrayals,” she declared. “And you won’t escape the punishment you deserve!”

Although recent opinion polls have shown a slight revival in her support, Le Pen looks unlikely to repeat her father Jean-Marie’s triumph in 2002, when a 16.86 per cent share in the first round took him through to a face-off with Jacques Chirac.

Instead, she finds herself battling with Mélenchon for third place in Sunday’s first round of voting with Sarkozy and Hollande neck and neck at just under 30 per cent.

True her poll ratings are roughly the same as Le Pen père’s in 2002, at about 16 per cent, so she may have a reserve of voters who have not declared their true intentions. But Jean-Marie profited from the feeble showing of Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin, who never achieved the same level of support as Hollande today and managed to end up with just 16.18 per cent.

Marine Le Pen had hoped to harvest the disillusion Sarkozy voters who have found him insufficiently right-wing in office and to win support from workers and small businesspeople on the rough end of the economic crisis.

So her campaign took up social issues and lashed financiers and “the élite”, reportedly leading her father to complain that it was too technical.

But, with that line failing to deliver the hoped-for results, it has been the FN’s old favourites of immigration, Islam and law and order that have come to the fore, not forgetting sideswipes at Brussels and a proposal for a referendum on the euro.

That pleased the crowd in Paris on Tuesday. The biggest cheers were reserved for her attacks on immigration and an assurance that her audience had the right to “want no more of Franco-Algerians like [Toulouse killer] Mohamed Merah”.

The campaign has opened up divisions in the FN's ranks, according to Le Monde newspaper.

It claims that some of Marine Le Pen's campaign organisers, who have rejoined the party after splitting with Bruno Mégret in 1998, want to squeeze out Jean-Marie and his loyalists, citing anonymous sources who complain of "surveillance", spying and "sneaking" to "the boss".

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