France's Le Pen: This time I can win

8th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 8, 2007 (AFP) - France's veteran far-right leader Jean-Marie Le

PARIS, Jan 8, 2007 (AFP) - France's veteran far-right leader Jean-Marie Le

Pen on Monday predicted that he will again qualify for the second round of the country's approaching elections, but said that this time he could actually be voted president.

In a New Year message to the press, the 78 year-old National Front (FN) chief said that divisions in the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) will pull him ahead of the right-wing candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and result in a two-way decider against the Socialist Segolene Royal.

"As in 2002 I will probably be in the second round of the presidential election. But unlike in 2002, this time I can win the election, because I will probably be facing a candidate of the left, which will at least offer voters the choice between two radically different alternatives," he said.

In the 2002 presidential election Le Pen horrified the political establishment when he qualified for the second round run-off by beating the Socialist Lionel Jospin into third place. Le Pen was then trounced by Jacques Chirac.

Recent opinion polls give Le Pen up to 17 percent of voting intentions. At a similar point ahead of the 2002 election, the far-right leader had only nine percent -- which increased to 16.86 percent on the day.

Le Pen used the traditional New Year's message to launch a customary broadside against the media for "boycotting" his campaign. He also accused the political establishment of trying to block his candidacy by preventing the necessary "sponsorships".

Under the law, candidates have till March 20 to gather 500 signatures from elected officials -- mayors, regional and local deputies and members of parliament -- in order to be able to run for the presidency.

As in 2002, Le Pen is having difficulty finding the signatures because -- he says -- potential sponsors are scared off by the stigma of publicly backing him.

Le Pen's fifth presidential campaign is being heavily influenced by his daughter Marine, who has sought to soften his extremist anti-immigrant image.

Last month for the first time in its history the FN released an election poster featuring a black person.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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