17 percent of French voters plan to back Le Pen

24th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 24, 2006 (AFP) - Seventeen percent of French voters plan to back far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in April's presidential election, a poll showed Friday, raising the spectre he could break through once more to the second round.

PARIS, Nov 24, 2006 (AFP) - Seventeen percent of French voters plan to back far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in April's presidential election, a poll showed Friday, raising the spectre he could break through once more to the second round.

Le Pen's score in the CSA poll published in Le Monde is almost twice as high as five months before the 2002 presidentials, when he knocked out the Socialist candidate to face off against Jacques Chirac.

In November 2001, nine percent of the French said they planned to back the head of the National Front (FN), who ended up scoring 16.86 percent.

With Le Pen present in the first round, the Socialist Party's Ségolène Royal emerges first with 32 percent of votes, followed by the centre-right frontrunner, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, with 29 percent, the poll says.

But commentators have noted that if the mainstream right is split next year between Sarkozy and a rival centre-right candidate, Le Pen could exploit the division to repeat his performance of 2002 — this time facing off against the left.

The FN chief — whose party has 140 elected officials — has yet to raise the 500 official endorsements needed to join the race.

Le Pen, 78, accuses mainstream parties of seeking to block his candidacy, calling for the endorsement process to be made confidential to protect mayors from possible reprisals, but the government has refused to change the rules.

If the FN leader is unable to stand, Sarkozy's first round score would jump eight points to 37 percent, bringing him neck and neck with Royal who would also gain five points, the poll showed.

Despite its small number of elected officials, the FN is an integral part of France's political landscape and many warn it would be undemocratic for Le Pen to be excluded from the race.

According to the CSA poll, the public is evenly divided on the question, with 48 percent saying he should be allowed to stand against 47 percent who say not.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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