International Herald Tribune
Far-right rabble rouser Jean-Marie Le Pen no longer seems quite so extreme, said Katrin Bennhold in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune. But it’s not Le Pen who has changed—it is France. Two decades ago, when the National Front leader first began calling for the expulsion of illegal immigrants and strict controls on legal immigration, he was seen as a radical racist. Since the riots by immigrant youths a few months ago, though, French thinking has changed, and many of Le Pen’s anti-immigrant policies are now considered mainstream. Nicolas Sarkozy, the front-runner to succeed President Jacques Chirac next year, has positioned himself as a law-and-order candidate and adopted some of Le Pen’s jargon, such as calling the rioters “thugs.” Some French thinkers welcome the new discussion, saying immigration is too important an issue to be left to the far right. Others, though, fear the country is moving in the wrong direction. A year ago, one in four French people polled said they considered themselves “racist.” Last month, the figure was a disturbing one in three. Le Pen himself is still “unelectable”—after all, this is the man who called the Holocaust “a detail of history.” But many of his ideas “are no longer taboo.”
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