Front National courts black vote with posters

12th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 11, 2006 (AFP) - In a major break with its past, the French far-right National Front (FN) party of presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen on Monday unveiled an election poster that specifically targets black and Arab voters.

PARIS, Dec 11, 2006 (AFP) - In a major break with its past, the French far-right National Front (FN) party of presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen on Monday unveiled an election poster that specifically targets black and Arab voters.

Intended to draw attention to the failed integration policies of the mainstream political parties, the poster bears the image of a young black woman making a thumbs-down sign alongside the slogan, "Left/Right — They've Broken Everything".

Five more campaign posters show people from other walks of life making the same gesture of contempt for the political establishment, and the last has the 78-year-old FN leader walking with the six individuals — including the black woman — beneath the slogan, "Together, Let's Lift France Back Up."

It was the first time that the anti-immigrant party has shown the image of a non-white person in its literature, and reflected the growing influence of Le Pen's daughter Marine, who is acting as his campaign director ahead of the April presidential election.

A 38-year-old member of the European parliament and FN vice-president, Marine Le Pen is seen as a moderniser who wants to purge the party of its racist and thuggish associations.

According to press reports, Marine Le Pen had difficulty persuading the FN's old guard, who believed the poster would alienate some of the party's core voters.

But unveiling the campaign Monday, she told journalists that her father's candidacy would "bring people together — regardless of religious, ethnic or even political specifics."

"A certain number of French people of immigrant origin are aware of the failures and want answers, and many of them are turning to Jean-Marie Le Pen," she said.

Marine Le Pen was behind an unprecedented speech made by her father in September at the revolutionary battlefield of Valmy in northeast France, in which for the first time he called on "French people of foreign origin" to join his movement.

"As French people — not French on paper or French by origin but French by heart and spirit — we can all form tomorrow the varied army of the soldiers of Valmy," he said on the anniversary of the victory over an invading Austro-Prussian army.

Last month in a further sign of the shifting political sands, Le Pen received a visit from the black stand-up comic Dieudonne — an outspoken radical long seen as a hero in the high-immigration suburbs, or "banlieues" where last year's riots took place.

The two men shook hands at the FN's annual fair at Le Bourget in the Paris suburbs, and Dieudonné later said that the Valmy speech was a "turning-point ... a hand held out like I have not seen in a long time."

Le Pen subsequently gave an interview to an Internet site run by associations in the 'banlieues' in which he said he had "never spoken of the superiority of one race over another."

"I am demonised, just as the 'banlieue' is demonised," he told www.labanlieuesexprime.org.

The far-right leader caused a sensation in 2002 when he was runner-up in the presidential election, forcing the Socialist Lionel Jospin into third place with nearly one in five of first round votes. He was easily beaten by President Jacques Chirac in round two.

Less than five months before the 2007 election, polls show Le Pen has some 17 percent support and he has spoken confidently of winning through again to the second round.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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