BBC: France's National Front picks Marine Le Pen as new head
Marine Le Pen speaks at a FN meeting (Dec 2010) Ms Le Pen looks set to be a genuine contender in the 2012 presidential elections
France's far-right National Front has named Marine Le Pen as its new leader at a party conference.
Marine Le Pen is the latest in a younger generation of far-right leaders in Europe seeking to shake off the old fascist legacy with a softer message.
Some believe Marine, a pro-abortion, pro-women's rights, twice-divorced mother of three, is more dangerous to the unpopular President Sarkozy than her father.
And in this economic gloom that prevails in France she is in the perfect climate to steal political ground.
Polls suggest her party has already eroded the president's support. A survey this week suggested 32% of supporters of Mr Sarkozy's UMP are sympathetic to the FN's ideas - a 10% jump in one year.
While most French people are still deeply opposed to what Marine Le Pen stands for, her party is still gaining momentum.
I DON'T AGREE WITH ALL SHE OR HER PARTY STAND FOR, BUT SHE MIGHT BE THE LAST BEST HOPE FOR A NON-ISLAMIFIED FRANCE.
I have no problem with you praying, whenever you please, provided you do not obstruct traffic, or force me to have to watch you pray. Like thousands of mohammedans like doing in France.
Nicolas Sarkozy to target Muslim prayers
NICOLAS Sarkozy will take another lurch to the Right with a speech on New Year’s Eve calling Muslim prayers in the street “unacceptable”. After his expulsions of gypsies and a crackdown on immigrant crime, the French President will warn that the overflow of Muslim faithful on to the streets at prayer time when mosques are packed to capacity risks undermining the French secular tradition separating state and religion.
He will doubtless be accused of pandering to the far Right: the issue of Muslim prayers in the street has been brought to the fore by Marine Le Pen, the charismatic new figurehead of the National Front, who compared it to the wartime occupation of France.
Her words provoked uproar on the Left, whose commentators took them as evidence that far from being the gentler face of the far Right, Ms Le Pen, 42, is no different from Jean-Marie, 82, her father, who has been accused of racism and Holocaust denial.
According to his aide, Mr Sarkozy agrees with the junior Le Pen that the street cannot be allowed to become “an extension of the mosque” as it does in some parts of Paris, which are closed to traffic because of the overflow of the faithful. Local authorities have declined to intervene, despite public complaints, because they are afraid of sparking riots.
“People overreacted to Marine Le Pen’s comments,” said the aide, referring to the furore in which she was accused of rabble-rousing racism. “She is right: this phenomenon is unacceptable.”
VIDEO OF THE STREET PRAYERS:
Miss Le Pen has promised to turn her likely victory into a springboard for the presidential election next year. A poll released yesterday in the magazine Marianne suggested she would come third, garnering up to 20 per cent of the vote.
While she promotes her father's anti-immigrant, anti-Europe stance, Miss Le Pen claims to want to "de-diabolise" the party, removing unsavoury oddballs from its fringes and supporting gay rights, abortion and divorce to reach a wider electorate.
THIS IS A GOOD DEVELOPMENT FOR FRANCE: EITHER SARKO WILL IMPROVE OR HE WILL LOSE TO HER AND FRANCE WILL IMPROVE.
With her softer, modern discourse, Ms Le Pen is enjoying a political windfall because the hobbyhorses of the National Front (FN) - Muslims, immigrant-related crime and globalisation - have gone mainstream. "Time has proved us right in a quite spectacular fashion," said Ms Le Pen. "Our old themes, opposition to the euro, the EU, immigration, have taken on a different light. People are saying that this party that was stigmatised was right." With a touch of the apocalypse beloved of her father she added: "This touches the future of European civilisation."
Polls support her view. Forty-two per cent of French people say that they see Islam as an internal threat. The Sarkozy team was shocked yesterday (Thursday) by a survey showing that 22 per cent of his own voters support the Front's ideas, a 12 per cent leap over a year.
In her silk blouse, jeans and boots, Ms Le Pen laughs at the way the "Marine effect" has worried the Sarkozy team.
The President will not get away again with "hijacking" FN votes as he did in the 2007 election, she said.
"His word is completely discredited. He has been in power for three years and he has done the opposite of his pledges - to control immigration, curb crime and create a moral republic. He failed and there has never been so much crime and corruption."