28 April 2012
France’s National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, has scorned incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempt to veer further to the right to attract her voters in the second round of the country’s tight presidential race.
Until a few days ago, Sarkozy and his “clique” had attacked the National Front (FN) on all fronts, the 43-year-old Le Pen told RTL radio on April 26.
“We were xenophobes, anti-Semites, racists,” said Le Pen, whose party failed to make the run-off but did win 18 percent of the vote in the first round on April 22. “And all of a sudden, there is no more of that [condemnation].”
The taunt came as Sarkozy and his front-running Socialist rival, François Hollande, prepared to take their duel to the airwaves to sell their competing plans for France if they are elected in the final round on May 6.
Sarkozy, the first sitting French president to lose a first-round vote, has tilted further to the right since April 23, vowing to “defend the French way of life,” drastically reduce immigration and secure France’s borders.
Both he and Hollande are battling to woo the millions who voted for Le Pen and are seen as key to winning the second round; the latest opinion poll predicted that Hollande would win 54 percent compared to Sarkozy’s 46 percent.
Sarkozy ruled out any pact with the FN on April 25, saying he would give the party no ministerial posts if re-elected, but Hollande still accuses his rival of going too far to woo the extreme right. Le Pen has said she will give her “opinion” on May 1 on whom to back, but analysts have said it is unlikely she will endorse either candidate.
Dispute over Muslims
Hollande has said that, if elected, he would not seek to overturn a law banning face-covering Muslim veils enacted by Sarkozy’s conservatives.
Hollande told RTL radio on April 27 that he would keep the ban but “have it applied in the best way.”
The Socialist leader also accused Sarkozy of “lies” after the president said Hollande had received the support of controversial Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan; Sarkozy’s ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) has also said Hollande has the backing of 700 mosques across France.
Ramadan denied on April 26 that he had made any statement to support Hollande, while the French Muslim Council (CFCM) also said there had been no call to back him.