Jean-Marie Le Pen

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The leader of the National Front, France's extreme right wing party, Jean-Marie Le Pen has been campaigning for decades on a far right program.

Background

Le Pen was born in 1928 in the Breton town of La Trinite-sur-Mer. He joined the French Foreign Legion in 1954, and saw action in the failed counter-insurgencies in French Indochina and Algeria. In 1965 he helped run the election campaign of far-right candidate Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour. He established the National Front as a political party in 1972.

Today France's National Front is one Europe's largest right-wing extremist party. It presently nets 15% of the vote in national elections. It's main anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic ranting. Their biggest success may be Jean-Marie Le Pen’s strong showing in the 2002 French presidential election. The slogan of Le Pen's campaign was “First France and the French.” Much to the surprise of the rest of Europe, Le Pen emerged to be a legitimate challenger to Jacques Chirac in the elections. He has been in trouble with the law for various holocaust denial and anti-semitic charges, as well as physical assault of a female socialist opponent. His Party is an unlikely coalition of the worse of the french political scene, from pagan National-Socialist supporters to catholic integrists. Recently, Le Pen's Party split in two. Bruno Megret, who was widely considered to be Le Pen’s successor, recently won an election at the party’s congress to become its leader. However, Le Pen dismissed the election as a coup attempt and even called Megret an aspiring Napoleon. Now France has two national front parties hoping to compete in elections; one headed by Le Pen and one headed by his successor Megret. Le Pen has re-entered the media spotlight in wake of the riots in the suburbs of Paris. In a recent BBC interview, Le Pen summed up the immigrant population by stating, "these people have a reputation for being fairly incompetent in work, being aggressive, and often being hostile.” Le Pen claims that his party has been flooded with membership request in response to the riots. Le Pen stated in an earlier interview that "massive immigration from countries of the Third World that is threatening not just France but the whole continent."

Le Pen has also made headlines recently because he is being sued by French anti-racists organizations after making the comment that Nazi gas chambers were just a "detail" of history. He lost a suit in 1987 for making similar statements and was fined 183,200 euros for trivializing the Holocaust.

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