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French parliamentary election 2012

French impressionist throws light on Sarkozy party's bid for far-right votes

RFI
Text by: Tony Cross
5 min

A trick phone call by a radio impressionist has led to accusations that ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party is cosying up to the far-right Front National (FN). Ex-minister Nadine Morano told a man she believed to be an FN high-up that she agreed with some of his party’s policies and agreed that they had common interests in Sunday’s parliamentary election.

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Seizing on the opportunity to distract attention from an embarrassing tweet by François Hollande’s partner Valérie Trierweiler, the Socialists have attacked Morano for courting the far-right movement and claimed that it is symptomatic of a rightward shift by the UMP as a whole.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Party secretary Martine Aubry declared the fake phone call “terrifying” on a visit to the eastern city of Nancy where she was supporting Socialist candidate, Dominique Potier, who beat Morano into second place last weekend’s first round of the parliamentary poll.

“These men and women are the grandchildren of resistance fighters, of General (Charles] De Gaulle, and they dare say what they say,” she said.

Former families minister Morano appealed to FN voters to back her on the grounds that they had “common values” in the pages of the far-right paper Minute.

When Socialist sympathiser Gérald Dahan phoned her pretending to be FN number two Louis Aliot, she agreed with him that they had “common interests” and told him that FN leader Marine Le Pen has “a great deal of talent”.

“They are going to get us in the worst shit ever,” she said of the Socialists and their allies. “The left and the right just aren’t the same! They’re going to give votes to foreigners. I don’t want it to become like Lebanon where I live!”

The interview caused uproar when it was broadcast on Sud Radio and Morano says she will sue.

Aliot himself commented that the interview showed that “under the pressure of the people” the UMP is “abandoning the absurd strategy of a cordon sanitaire” against his party.

Former prime minister François Fillon, who travelled to Nancy to back Morano's campaign during the week, has criticised her for holding the conversation, declaring "one doesn't talk to leaders of the FN".

After a presidential and legislative election campaign where it took up issues dear to the FN, especially immigration and relations with France’s Muslim minority, the UMP has refused to withdraw candidates in three-way deciding rounds where a Socialist could lose to the Front National, ingoring Aubry’s call for a “republican front” against the far right.

On Friday Aubry called on Socialist candidate Catherine Arkilovitch to withdraw in the southern constituency where Marine Le Pen’s niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen could be elected in a three-way in which the UMP candidate is second placed.

The FN will have candidates in 28 of the 34 three-way races on Sunday and 61 in total.

Before the first round, boosted by a 17.9 per cent vote in the presidential election, it had set a target of 353 candidates in the second round.

Its 3.5 million votes (13.6 per cent) in the parliamentary first round entitles it to a 5.8 million-euro-per-year state subsidy, compared to 1.8 million euros that it was receiving before the poll.

One UMPer has stood down in favour of an FN candidate, two FN candidates have withdrawn, one against the party’s orders, and so has one Socialist.

The FN has not had members in the National Assembly for 24 years and, apart from in 1986 when it won 35 seats, has never had more than three MPs.

About five FN candidates stand a chance of being elected on Sunday, including Marine Le Pen in Hénin-Beaumont and Gilbert Collard in a southern constituency.

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