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Far-right Le Pen to stand in French elections
Marine Le Pen obtains 500 required signatures as poll puts Sarkozy ahead of Socialist opposition candidate.
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2012 20:36
Le Pen waves to supporters during her presidential convention in Lille February 19, 2012 [Reuters]

Marine Le Pen, French far-right candidate, has secured the backing of enough local government officials to run in the two-round presidential election, party sources said.

Le Pen, who heads the anti-immigrant National Front party, now has the required 500 signatures from local mayors and other elected officials to stand in the April-May vote, she announced publically on Tuesday, as she was greeted by cheering supporters at a rally in Henin-Beaumont, 200km north of Paris.

The far right leader reiterated her position: "I say it clearly: I totally refuse illegal immigrants who don't want to recognise the authority of the laws and of the French culture".

But she called on all French people to support her "no matter their history, their origins, no matter whether they are men or women, young or old, that they believe in God or not".

Le Pen earlier on Tuesday announced on Twitter - three days before the deadline to submit the signatures - that "the system that wanted to prevent me has just lost a battle".

Although opinion polls give Le Pen between 16 and 18 per cent of the national vote, there was speculation that few mayors or regional councillors wanted to take the political risk of associating themselves with her campaign.

France's constitutional council last month rejected Le Pen's plea to make the sponsorships anonymous.

All French presidential candidates must have the signed endorsement of 500 elected local officials - of which there are around 42,000 in France - by the March 16 deadline.

Scepticism over Sarkozy 'lead'

President Nicolas Sarkozy pulled ahead of his Socialist rival for the first time in France's election race Tuesday, according to a poll conducted after the right-winger took a strident anti-EU turn.

The survey forecasts that Sarkozy would lead in the first round but still lose out to Francois Hollande in the second.It was, nonetheless, a symbolic boost for the leader who had consistently trailed his rival for the past five months.

Sarkozy’s spokesperson claimed there was "panic" among the Socialists after the Ifop poll that said the president would would win 28.5 per cent of the vote in the first round in April, against 27 per cent for Hollande.

Hollande, whose ex-partner Segolene Royal lost to Sarkozy in 2007, is still on course to win the second round in May with 54.5 per cent against Sarkozy's 45.5 per cent, the poll said.

"It's a turning point … but a nuanced turning point," Frederic Dabi of Ifop told AFP.

Le Pen was greeted by cheering supporters on Tuesday as she addressed a rally in Henin-Beaumont, 200km north of Paris.

The far right leader reiterated her position: "I say it clearly: I totally refuse illegal immigrants who don't want to recognise the authority of the laws and of the French culture".

But she called on all French people to support her "no matter their history, their origins, no matter whether they are men or women, young or old, that they believe in God or not."

Le Pen earlier on Tuesday announced on Twitter - three days before the deadline to submit the signatures - that "the system that wanted to prevent me has just lost a battle".

While it was too soon to predict a turnaround, Sarkozy's progress showed he had struck a chord with voters with a threat he made on Sunday to erect unilateral barriers to trade and immigration unless the EU took a tougher stand on those issues.

EU diplomats have largely dismissed his ultimatum, made during a rally, to toughen border controls and protect European companies, as campaign rhetoric. But it spoke directly to thefar-right voters he needs to recruit to his camp.

"It's logical there's a poll reaction to the speech, and we may well see more surveys showing the same thing, but the situation is still much more positive for Hollande," Dominique Barbet, an economist for BNP Paribas economist, said.
 
"You can't say it has turned around based on one poll, especially when there is still a nine point gap for the second round. Hollande's second-round lead has been pretty steady."

Jack Lang, a former Socialist minister, played down the survey's importance, deeming it "abnormal" that an incumbent be as low in the polls as is Sarkozy.

"Let's not get taken in or too excited by this or that poll," he said.

The survey of 1,638 people was carried out by telephone, shortly after tens of thousands of Sarkozy supporters turned up in a Paris suburb on Sunday for his biggest campaign rally so far.

Source:
Agencies
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