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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 20:16 GMT 21:16 UK
French foes unite against Le Pen
Anti-Le Pen protest in Rennes (banner reads: 'Le Pen in the trash')
Anti-Le Pen protests have erupted throughout France
The parties of defeated leftist candidates in France's presidential election have called on voters to support incumbent Jacques Chirac in the second round against far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The Socialist, Communist and Green parties all officially called on their supporters to back Mr Chirac, a conservative, on 5 May.

The success of the National Front leader in beating the Socialists' Lionel Jospin into third place shocked many in France and abroad.

Click here for a map of the election results by region

Mr Le Pen, who gained notoriety for his remarks about the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews and his stance on immigration, has attributed his strong showing in the first round partly to popular discontent with mainstream parties.

He said his success in the first round was an engine for the renewal of the country and the end of a decadent political system.

France needs you, and I need you

Jacques Chirac
In a speech to supporters, he said that, if elected, he would reconsider France's membership of the European Union.

"The first question I would raise would be the restoration of French freedoms and an exit from the Europe of Maastricht," he said.

However, he denied that he was anti-European.

"I am a partisan of a Europe of nations, a Europe of homelands. I am however an adversary of a supranational federalising Europe," said Mr Le Pen.

Rallying round Chirac

Many politicians who are Mr Chirac's political enemies have urged a vote for the incumbent to prevent Mr Pen seizing victory in the second.

"Jacques Chirac is our adversary in the democratic arena but Jean-Marie Le Pen is a danger for the republic," said Socialist Party chairman Francois Hollande.

"Between a ballot for Le Pen or a ballot for Chirac, we are voting Jacques Chirac."

Jean-Marie Le Pen
  • Born in 1928 in the Brittany town of La Trinite-sur-Mer
  • Set up the National Front in 1972
  • In 1987 he described the Holocaust as a "detail of history"
  • Wants 200,000 new prison places, the abolition of inheritance tax and a renegotiation of European treaties

  • Mr Chirac himself, who says the unity of the republic is at stake, has been meeting eliminated centre-right candidates to ensure their support.

    "I call on all French men and women to gather to defend human rights," said Mr Chirac. "France needs you, and I need you."

    There were anti-Le Pen protests for a second day on Monday, with students taking to the streets in Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg and Toulouse.

    Anti-globalisation protester Jose Bove addressed a march of 12,000 demonstrators in Tours.

    "We must say no to Le Pen in the streets, every day," said Mr Bove.

    More demonstrations are planned throughout the two weeks remaining before the second round.

    Dull campaign

    Correspondents say Mr Le Pen has little chance of victory in round two of the election, but his strong performance is a sign that the National Front could do well in parliamentary elections in June.

    A lacklustre campaign by the main candidates culminated in a record low turnout on voting day, with nearly 30% staying at home or leaving town to enjoy the warm weather.

    The left will have an enormous job to fight and regroup... and its first task will be to choose a new leader

    Pascal Jacquemain, UK

    The far-right leader toned down his usual anti-immigrant rhetoric during the campaign as the issue of law and order - another favourite for the Front National leader - came to the fore.

    Voters declared themselves bored with both main candidates, who had already fought each other in the 1995 presidential election.

    Mr Chirac, 69, has been damaged by persistent sleaze allegations, while Mr Jospin, 64, a stiff former professor, was seen as honest but dull.

    Click here to return

    Jean-Marie Le Pen, Leader, French National Party
    "Perhaps I can win the second round"
    The BBC's Jon Sopel in Paris
    "The voters wanted to give the politicians a scare"
    The BBC's Bridget Kendall
    "The country's political landscape is in turmoil"
    Guy Mamadou, spokesman for SOS Racisme
    "We worry about the reaction of the extreme left wing"

    Key stories





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    22 Apr 02 | Africa
    22 Apr 02 | Europe
    22 Apr 02 | UK Politics
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