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Le Pen sounds call for Sixth Republic

The Front National leader, Jean-Marie le Pen, yesterday called for abolition of the Fifth Republic created by de Gaulle and its replacement by a Sixth Republic which would defend French "national identity" as the standard-bearer for nationalist movements throughout the world.

In his closing speech to the 10th FN congress in Strasbourg, he threatened to counter-attack against allegations that he and his party are fascist, racist and anti-Semitic. This campaign of vilification was a strategy by the "corrupt" establishment parties, and the "professional anti-racism lobby" to undermine the only party capable of providing France with hope of a glorious future.

The speech, touted as the opening broadside in the FN campaign for parliamentary elections next year, contained most of the standard Le Pen themes: the decadence of the establishment; the US-led plot to impose a global economy and culture; and efforts to traduce his party as a prelude, he claimed, to a legal ban.

The chief novelty was Mr Le Pen's attempt to take on the mantle of de Gaulle and call for complete renewal of all political institutions. De Gaulle, who gave up Algeria, remains a villain to many on the ultra-right. But Mr Le Pen claimed him as a forerunner of his self-proclaimed mission and "historic duty" to rescue France from immobility and corruption.

A few years after being regarded as a pariah and failure, de Gaulle founded the Fifth Republic in 1958, Mr Le Pen said. "This is a historic model that many should ponder ... Vive the Sixth Republic!"

Although the FN has called for constitutional change, without giving many details, this was the first time Mr Le Pen had directly appealed for a completely new beginning for political institutions.

But there were two sobering developments for Mr Le Pen yesterday. Four FN members were arrested after roughing up two young men in a hotel car- park. Three of the Frontistses, security guards at the congress, had claimed to be policemen. They appear in court tomorrow, undermining

Mr Le Pen's attempt to portray his party as a victim, not a cause, of political violence, after the destructive behaviour of a minority of members of an anti-FN demonstration on Saturday.

Secondly, the details of the voting for the FN central committee showed an embarrassing rejection by Front members of Mr Le Pen's efforts to curb the rise of his ambitious, de facto Number Two, Bruno Megret,who topped the ballot for the first time. One of his principal supporters came second and the man chosen by Mr Le Pen to block Mr Megret's rise - Bruno Gollnisch, the dull party secretary general - came a limp third.