Sarkozy fails to convince far-right vote as Le Pen urges her supporters to abstain

Parties use May Day to rally support ahead of Sunday's presidential election run-off


The deep fractures in French society revealed by the presidential election campaign took raucous, physical form yesterday in rival May Day demonstrations of left, right and far right.

Five days before the second round of an election that he is expected to lose, President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed a controversially named "real work" rally at the Place Trocadéro, across the river from the Eiffel Tower. More than 100,000 well-heeled people packed into the square – a dangerous number for a relatively small space but an impressive show of middle-class support for the President.

On the other side of the city, a traditional May Day march by trades unions turned into a joyous, and presumptuous, wake for the Sarkozy era. Some marchers carried banners stating: "I'm a real worker". Others sang the Chant des Partisans, the hauntingly beautiful song of the wartime resistance.

This was a reference to Mr Sarkozy's phrase "vrai travail" which was first coined, according to the left, by the pro-Nazi Vichy regime in 1940-44.

Earlier, the far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, announced she would cast a "blank" ballot rather than vote for either Mr Sarkozy or the Socialist front-runner François Hollande on Sunday.

Ms Le Pen, who came third with 17.9 per cent of the vote in the 10-candidate first round on 22 April, led the annual National Front march through Paris to celebrate Joan of Arc Day. Afterwards, she addressed 10,000 supporters in front of the ornate façade of the Paris Opera – a rare case of a stout lady singing outside rather than inside the building.

Despite strenuous efforts by Mr Sarkozy to appeal to NF voters in the last 10 days, Ms Le Pen dismissed both the President and Mr Hollande as identical spokesmen for a pro-European "political elite" who offer only "false hopes and new disappointments".

She said her first-round score was "just the beginning" of a revolt by the "patriotic... real people of France against the EU and against the IMF... and against uncontrolled immigration". Mr Sarkozy's rhetoric has become scarcely distinguishable from that of the NF in recent days. He says the most important single issue in the campaign is the rebuilding and protection of "frontiers" to stop French "history and civilisation" being wiped out by Europe, immigration and globalisation. His Defence Minister, Gérard Longuet, caused offence yesterday by suggesting Marine Le Pen "unlike her father" is "someone we can speak to".

Not a single NF marcher questioned yesterday said they would consider voting for Mr Sarkozy this weekend – but these were mostly party die-hards rather than occasional far-right voters. The latest opinion polls before the two-candidate, second-round vote show a slight shift towards Mr Sarkozy but Mr Hollande leads by six to eight points.

Whatever the similarities in rhetoric, there remains a social and political gulf between the National Front and Mr Sarkozy's UMP party. Although Ms Le Pen claims to have cleaned up the NF's act, the party security service yesterday consisted of brutal-looking men with shaven heads and leather jackets, just as it did in the days of her father, Jean-Marie. The marchers chanted "France for the French" and "Nous sommes chez nous (we are in our own home)" and "Communistes Assassins". The far-right newspapers carried headlines like: "Let's produce French people from other French people."

On the "Nuremberg rally scale", the crowd at President Sarkozy's meeting was more genteel but far more numerous. The pedestrian tunnels beneath the square became so jammed with Sarkozy supporters the Metro station closed to prevent an accident. Mr Sarkozy's campaign boasted 200,000 people at the rally. The French media estimated 100,000 – itself an impressive turnout for a supposedly lost cause on a sunny bank holiday afternoon.

To roars of approval, President Sarkozy attacked the trades union movement as too political and not sufficiently patriotic. "Put down your red flags and work for France," he said. For someone who appeals constantly to France's history, Mr Sarkozy has a shaky sense of history. Using the Vichy phrase "real work" was almost certainly clumsy rather than deliberately provocative. In his last open-air rally last month, he spoke from the exact spot where Louis XVI was guillotined in 1793.

Yesterday, the podium for his "real work" rally was erected a few metres from the viewpoint towards the Eiffel Tower where Adolf Hitler was filmed on his only visit to Paris in June 1940.

Strauss-Kahn to face hotel maid's civil case

A hotel maid's sexual assault lawsuit against Dominique Strauss-Kahn can go forward to trial, a judge ruled yesterday, rebuffing the former IMF leader's claim of diplomatic immunity.

Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon's ruling kept alive the civil case that emerged from the May 2011 encounter between Nafissatou Diallo, 33, and Mr Strauss-Kahn, 63. It also led to criminal charges that were later dismissed. Further sex allegations sank the political career of Mr Strauss-Kahn, who was once a contender for French President. AP

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk