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France

Pressure builds on Sarkozy as he ‘crosses red line’ on Le Pen

Humanite newspaper

A high profile anti-racist campaign group has ‘decided to call for a vote against Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round of the Presidential election.’

SOS Racism stated Wednesday that ‘in declaring that Le Pen is compatible with the Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy has crossed a line that no President of the Republic or any republican candidate in a Presidential election has crossed.’

Sarkozy’s first round campaign was marked by an unprecedented swing to the far right for a mainstream right-wing candidate with strong attacks on immigrants as he tried but failed to win over Marine Le Pen’s far right backers. Some argue that the incumbent’s bid to steal Le Pen’s clothes simply legitimised her abhorrent views and so boosted her vote, and she achieved a record 18% for the Front National.

Now he is stepping up this far-right-ward lurch following Sunday’s result that saw him come second with 27.8%  of the vote against Socialist candidate Francois Hollande’s 28.6%. In the May 6 runoff Hollande is currently predicted to win by a margin of 10 points.

On Tuesday, Sarkozy told supporters in Longjumeau, a suburb in the south of Paris, that voters who had turned to Marine Le Pen had done so legitimately and that the Front National was ‘compatible with the Republic’.

Sarkozy also said that nationhood, immigration and border security, all strong themes of the Front National, ‘had to be talked about’ and that he would tackle them head on ‘so that [Front National voters] understand clearly that we have heard their message’.

François Bayrou, the centrist candidate who came in fifth with about 9 percent of the vote, said:

‘This race on one’s belly for FN themes is humiliating. To pretend that the imbalances in the social accounts are down to immigrants is to renounce half a century of social progress in France.

Left Front candidate Jean Luc Melenchon who garnered 11% of the vote in Sunday argued on his  blog today that the first round results showed that Le Pen’s rise, particularly among working class voters, was very closely aligned with Sarko’s fall and that a process of ‘transfusion’ was taking place with the Front National sucking the blood out of Sarkozy’s dying UMP party .

Two French newspapers have added to the pressure on Sarkozy by publishing damning articles likening President Nicolas Sarkozy to WWII-era fascist leader Marshall Philippe Pétain.

Liberal daily Liberation published a sombre and funereal black and white photograph on its front page.  At the bottom of the page was a quote of Sarkozy saying that Le Pen was ‘compatible with the Republic’.

In an editorial, the newspaper accused the president of ‘Pétaniste’ zeal for using the May 1 International Workers’ Day celebration to hold a rally in defence of “real work”.

The reference was to wartime collaborationist leader of Vichy France Marshall Philippe Pétain, who in 1941 declared May 1 a ‘national celebration of work and harmony’.

Communist-linked daily L’Humanité published pictures of Sarkozy and Pétain side by side on the front page.

L’Humanite accused Sarkozy of attempting a ‘takeover bid’ of May 1 , international workers day, as part of his campaign to win over the 6.4 million voters who backed Le Pen in the first round ballot.

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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