France has been shocked to the core by the unexpected success of the far-right politician, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in the first round of the country’s presidential election.
Thousands of people took to the streets in Paris and other French cities to demonstrate against Le Pen and his anti-immigration policies.
Socialists and conservatives alike described the result as “cataclysmic”, “shameful”, a “disgrace to French democracy” and “an outrage”.
Le Pen won enough votes to take on incumbent President Jacques Chirac in the run-off on 5 May and beat out Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, who announced that he will retire from political life immediately after the runoff.
Jospin has headed a coalition government of socialists, greens and communists for the past five years in an uneasy power-sharing arrangement with the conservative Chirac.
Le Pen blames immigrants for high unemployment and urban violence and is best known for his remark that the Nazi gas chambers were “a detail of history.”
Many socialists, disillusioned with what they see as the centrist drift of Jospin’s party, voted for candidates from smaller parties.
- Sputnik Kilambi, reporter for Free Speech Radio News in Paris.
- The Raging Grannies, sing “The Grannies March on Washington.”