Le Pen's Rightist Views Find New Favor in France
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Last November's riots in France are still affecting French politics. Pollsters say that more people are admitting to racist attitudes, and political analysts say that ideas that were once embraced only by the extreme right have entered the mainstream. Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Marie Le Pen is Vice President of the National Front, and the daughter of the Party's controversial founder, Jean Marie Le Pen. She says mainstream politicians used to characterize the National Front's ideas as extremist, even fascist, but not anymore.
MARIE LE PEN: (Through Translator) We sounded the alarm at a time when the French weren't very interested in all of these issues. But today the politicians realize that the French people are in synch with our ideas. There's been a real Le Pen-ization of the French political class.
BEARDSLEY: In a speech setting out policy for the new year, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy spoke at length about security and immigration.
NICOLAS SARKOZY: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Axel Poniatowski is a Congressman from Sarkozy's center-right party, the Union for a Popular Movement. He denies that his party is borrowing from Le Pen's handbook.
AXEL PONIATOWSKI: Jean Marie Le Pen has an approach concerning immigration which is connected to a racial approach. We're saying that we need immigration, but at the same time, we have to determine some rules to enable to continue to have this immigration. And I think that those rules is all what the debate is about today.
BEARDSLEY: Recent polls in France show that fewer people find Le Pen's ideas excessive today than ten years ago, but while some of those ideas are being discussed more widely, political analyst Pere Tanthierier(ph), that doesn't mean the French are about to embrace Le Pen.
PERE TANTHIERIER: (Through Translator) Our polls show that the ideas of the National Front seem to have become palatable. They seem to scare people a little less than before; they're perhaps considered a little less excessive. But it doesn't mean that the people find their ideas acceptable.
BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley, in Paris.
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