Le Pen barred from Provence
MARSEILLE, France, Feb 22 (AFP) - France's veteran far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has been barred from standing in next month's regional elections in the south of the country, after a court ruled Sunday that he failed to prove he has a residence there.
With lists due to close Monday for candidates for the March 21 and 28 polls, the ruling meant that Le Pen, 75, is frustrated in his ambition to become president of the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA).
The administrative court in Marseille confirmed a decision by the region’s prefect – or governor – who said that the address in Le Pen’s submission to the electoral authorities was the regional headquarters of his National Front party and not his own home.
Under French law a candidate must be domiciled for tax purposes in the region where he or she intends to stand.
Le Pen, who shocked France when he took second place in presidential elections in 2002, warned last week that the attempt to disqualify him was another sign of the political establishment seeking to exclude him from power.
“If the tribunal fails to answer my request, there will be someone else to take up the flag and lead the battle. Whatever the decision, I will stay in the battle – from one end to the other – right up to March 28,” he said.
The ruling meant that the National Front has only a few hours in which to put forward an alternative candidate.
The regional elections are a key mid-term test for the centre-right government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and commentators have said they could lead to more gains for the party.
With a strong message denouncing immigration and the political elite, the party has been helped by the conviction for illegal party funding of former prime minister Alain Juppe – a close aide of President Jacques Chirac – as well as the recent focus on Islamic headscarves in schools.
Situated along the Mediterranean between the Italian border and Marseille, the PACA region has long been Le Pen’s electoral heartland, awarding him 23.5 percent of the vote in the first multi-candidate round of the 2002 presidential race.
He has been foiled in previous attempts to become the regional president by agreements between the mainstream parties of left and right to back a single alternative candidate.
Subject: France news