Le Pen fears for future

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The Independent Online
THE LEADER of the National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, did not hide his rage yesterday at an electoral system which awarded 80 per cent of National Assembly seats to the new administration and shut his party out altogether.

'I have a lot of fear for our country,' he said, his lips quivering with anger as he went on to complain about a conspiracy by politicians across the political spectrum to deny the National Front a single seat. But this does not signal an end to anti-immigrant politics in France, for they have been adopted by the Gaullists and simply become mainstream.

Despite the collapse of Communism, the French Communist Party fared better than it could have dreamt in the face of the tidal wave of support for the right. It emerged with a healthy 23 Assembly seats, making it the fourth largest political group. The party lost three seats overall, continuing its gradual decline. Relative to the Socialists, who now have only 54 seats, it remains a force to be reckoned with, however.

The hardest fall-to-earth was for the ecologists, who looked like eclipsing the Socialists at one stage but saw their support evaporate and ended up without a single depute. The alliance between Generation Ecologie and the Greens failed to impress voters, initially intrigued by the combination of New Age thinking of leaders such as Brice Lalonde and the staple environmental proposals of the Greens. The alliance received only 7.6 per cent in the first round and could field just two candidates, both women, in the final ballot.

The National Front's bitterness and anger do not augur well for France's 3 million immigrants. Anti-immigrant feeling is higher than ever, according to opinion polls, and now it has an acceptable face, that of the victorious Gaullist party of Jacques Chirac, the Rally for the Republic.

Mr Le Pen's leadership of the National Front has now been put in question by his own failure to get elected in Nice, traditional heartland of the extreme right.