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France erupts in anger at Le Pen

May 10, 2002 | Pages 6 and 7

HATRED OF Nazi Jean-Marie Le Pen produced a landslide victory for incumbent President Jacques Chirac in France's May 5 election.

Le Pen had scored a second-place finish in the first round of voting April 21, beating out former Socialist Party Prime Minister Lionel Jospin for a spot in the run-off. But Le Pen's success produced an explosion of anger.

The two weeks between the first and second rounds were filled with massive anti-Le Pen mobilizations that brought some 1.5 million people onto the streets of Paris and other cities across France.

The upsurge shattered Le Pen's dreams of winning up to one-third of the vote. But even as disgust with France's Nazis propelled him to victory, Chirac was already pandering to Le Pen voters to win their support in upcoming legislative elections.

Far from settling the French political scene, the presidential election is the first stage in a stormy period of political confrontation and struggle. In this special feature, SHERRY WOLF reports from Paris on the anti-Le Pen mobilizations, while LEE SUSTAR looks at the background to France's crisis.

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Defiance in the streets
As many as 1 million people jammed the streets of Paris on May Day as the traditional workers' day protest was transformed into a massive anti-Le Pen demonstration.

Behind the rise of Le Pen
"Le Pen with silk stockings." That's what then-Socialist Party Prime Minister Edith Cresson called French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1991, after he spoke of an "invasion" of immigrants. But Cresson herself soon afterward stole Le Pen's clothes when she promised to charter airplanes to deport undocumented immigrants.

Why Chirac's victory won't stop Le Pen
People across France were rightly horrified by the Nazi Le Pen's second-place finish in the first round of French presidential elections. This drove millions to vote for the conservative Jacques Chirac to stop Le Pen. But Chirac has adapted to--and legitimized--Le Pen's rhetoric over the years.

Defeating the Nazi menace
The rise of Jean-Marie Le Pen is part of the growth of the far right across Western Europe. Most of these parties have tapped into discontent with the center-left governments that came to office in the late 1990s.

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