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French presidential election campaign - Sarkozy's appeal to the far-right vote

By Johnny Summerton
Posted Mar 4, 2012 in World
It can hardly have been anything more than a coincidence of course.
Just a day after the leader of the far right Front National, Marine Le Pen (FN), announced that she only needed 48 more signatures to be guaranteed being able to stand in the first round of the presidential elections, up pipes interior minister Claude Guéant.
He can always be relied on to appeal to voters who might be considering switching allegiances from the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, Union for a Popular Movement,UMP) party of Nicolas Sarkozy for Le Pen's FN.
He has done it in the past during interviews in which he has said the French don't feel at home in their own country, or France doesn't need foreign bricklayers and the number of Moslems in this country causes problems.
And on Friday he took up a theme recently introduced by La Pen who claimed there was a cover-up over the quantity of halal meat being distributed in the Paris region without consumers being aware.
Guéant gave the subject his own special but equally xenophobic touch by linking it to one of the policies put forward by the Socialist party's candidate François Hollande - giving foreigners (ie non-EU citizens resident in France) the right to vote.
"Giving foreigners the vote is a way of opening the door to communalism (the idea of there being a stronger loyalty to an ethnic group rather than society as a whole)," he said during a speech in the eastern French city of Nancy.
Claude Guéant  French interior minister (screenshot from France 3 television report)
Claude Guéant, French interior minister (screenshot from France 3 television report)
"We don't want foreigners becoming elected local councillors and then making halal meat obligatory in workplace canteens or public swimming pools being segregated according to sex," he continued.
"Foreigners must accept our rules, it's up to them to adapt. Everyone knows if we have fewer immigrants, things will be better."
Yes, this was a government minister speaking!
Little wonder that in the past Le Pen has, not-so jokingly perhaps, offered him honorary membership of her party.
Guéant was of course laying out a policy direction clearly designed to appeal to Le Pen voters and just as importantly he was preparing the ground for extreme views to become more acceptably mainstream to members of his own party.
Because guess what?
On Saturday during a campaign rally in Bordeaux, some of those very themes were taken up as part of a speech given by Nicolas Sarkozy, especially the fear of the power (non EU) foreigners would wield if given the vote
And his words fairly echoed those of the interior minister.
"It would amount to an attack on the Republic by opening the door to communalism (there's that word again)," he said.
"And it would put mayors under the threat of blackmail of communalism."