2006-09-22 Hannah Godfrey
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Can Jean Marie Le Pen do it again?

Jean Marie Le Pen - not always welcomeJean Marie Le Pen - not always welcome
On Wednesday the leader of the National Front, Jean Marie Le Pen, announced he would run in the country’s next presidential elections in Spring, his fifth bid for the presidency. The seventy eight year old leader made the announcement from the battlefield of Valmy, a key site in the history of the French Revolution. Can Le Pen, notorious for his racist and revisionist remarks, succeed in presenting himself as a Republican ? Can he capitalise on his breakthrough into the second round of the country's elections four years ago ? Radio France International reports from Valmy.

he sound of National Front supporters singing the strains of the Marseillaise as Jean-Marie Le Pen announces his candidacy for next year's presidential elections, taking the French Revolution for backdrop.

In a half-hour long speech, the founder and leader of the French far right party used the consensual and patriotic associations of the Revolution to forward his familiar but ever popular themes.

I have come to announce that a new Valmy is before us...with new threats, new challenges and new hopes, so that French history, forged by the likes of Vercingetorix, Saint Louis and De Gaulle can continue... or else she will disappear, annihilated, swallowed up by the Euro-Atlanticist magma.

Rally of Le Pen supportersRally of Le Pen supporters
United like the valiant soldiers of Valmy, she will conquer the hostile forces that have come to bring her down. By a simple vote she may give up her soul to the enemy army of globalised liberalism, of ghettoisation, of uncontrolled immigration and regression.

Le Pen has a history of associating himself with French national symbols, and this raises many hackles. On the day of his visit to Valmy the Socialists, Communists, Greens and a number of unions, staged a protest against the National Front's appropriation of the Revolution...

According to Jacques Meyer, the Socialist general Secretary for the Marne, where Valmy is situated, Le Pen's ideas are diametrically opposed to those of the Republic. He says the Revolutionaries held that all men are equal, regardless of their race and religion... to which Le Pen replies:

Our choice of Valmy is justified by the desire to prove that we are really a Republican force... not only for the defense of national interest, but also for the defense of the French Republic. We take the whole history of France, not only one part or another, we take all the history for us.

Le Pen supporters try to appeal to young voters tooLe Pen supporters try to appeal to young voters too
On the 21 April 2002 shock waves ran through France and beyond, when Le Pen broke into the second round of the presidential ballot. But what are his chances in next year's elections ? At the age of 78, he does not have age in his favour. During his speech at Valmy, he made a number of slips of the tongue, and at the following press conference he had a great deal of difficulty hearing the journalists' questions. His trump card is the simple course of history. The events of the past four years have played in his favour. Last years, riots and the great waves of immigrants that are landing on Europe's southern coast, are for many like the fulfilment of the prophesies Le Pen has been intoning throughout his political career.

His appearance at Valmy was the return to the public stage of a man who has been waiting in the wings, keeping a low profile and rubbing his hands, as one after the other, the country's politicians adopt positions on immigration and security that were traditionally associated with his party.

Whether it will be him or one of his adversaries who will benefit from this turn of events, will be revealed in the spring.

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