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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
French campaign gets personal
Jean-Marie Le Pen
Le Pen alleges ballot papers were tampered with
Campaigning has ended in France ahead of Sunday's presidential election between President Jacques Chirac and the National Front leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Mr Chirac, who is in Chalons-en-Champagne east of Paris to visit a youth council, said he considered himself a personal enemy of his rival.

I have always been the enemy - I would say almost a personal one - of the far right's leaders

Jacques Chirac
For his part, Mr Le Pen denounced the "totalitarian climate" which he said had prevailed in the country since 21 April, and added that he feared a "gigantic fraud" during the second round.

And the French national football team joined the fray by releasing a statement hitting out against attitudes which they said were dangerous for democracy and freedom.

Today everything is good enough to knock down Le Pen

Jean-Marie Le Pen

Captain Marcel Desailly said the players - different in origins, perceptions and personal commitments - were unanimous in condemning resurgent notions of exclusion and racism.

The statement did not mention by name Mr le Pen, who has previously criticised the make-up of the team - which contains many players of African and Arab origin - by saying it was artificial to call them the French side.

Hate campaign

Speaking at a press conference held at his headquarters near Paris, the National Front leader denounced what he called the "hate campaign" against him, his party and his supporters since he reached the second round of the election.

Launch new window : Voters' voices
In pictures: Views from the May Day marches

"What is in question is not our institutions, but the ability of the men who are in charge of governing France to listen, understand and act," he said.

Mr Le Pen cited several examples of alleged fraud, such as some voters receiving two ballots bearing Mr Chirac's name instead of one for each candidate, and the failure to deliver ballots to other voters.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Chirac acknowledged the depth of public discontent that catapulted the far-right leader into Sunday's run-off.

In an interview on French radio, he said the message from voters was that their leaders should sit up and start to take notice.

"You don't change problems by changing institutions, you do it by attacking problems and solving them."

Last rallies

In their last rallies on Thursday evening each candidate appealed to the values they regard as lying at the heart of French society.

Jean-Marie Le Pen
Le Pen asked voters to rid France of its "corrupt occupation"

Mr Chirac urged voters at a rally near Paris to reject a nationalism which he said "sullied the image and honour of France".

Mr Le Pen told his supporters in Marseille that he was the only person who could defend French citizens against the establishment.

The polls suggest that Mr Chirac will win a landslide victory when voters go to the polls on Sunday as leftist groups are urging voters to back Mr Chirac, simply to keep out Mr Le Pen.

The BBC's Philippa Thomas reports from Paris
"Everybody is really looking at Le Pen's vote not Chirac's majority"
Dominique Moisi, Institute of Political Science
"People are voting for Le Pen because he represents thier ideas"
See also:

02 May 02 | Europe
Where now after May Day?
01 May 02 | Europe
On the march with Le Pen
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