Weaker Far-Right Still Force in French Election
Minutes after commandos stormed the apartment building where al Qaeda-inspired gunman Mohamed Merah was holed up and shot him dead, neighbor Jean-Marc was out on the street venting his anger.
“They criticize Marine Le Pen for her views on immigration and security but look at what’s happening. Now people will listen,” said the cafe owner in this southern city, where Merah plotted the murder of three soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children.
Jean-Marc is exactly the kind of voter National Front leader Le Pen had in mind with her crime and immigration agenda - even before Merah’s attacks. Toulouse’s ethnic make up - Catholics, Jews and Muslims of North African origin - is mirrored in cities across France.
Far-right candidate Le Pen has slipped in opinion polls before the presidential election and no longer threatens to eliminate President Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round on April 22. But her ferociously loyal support base means she will still play a crucial role in the May 6 runoff that is expected to pit Sarkozy against Socialist Francois Hollande.