Le Pen gets nearly 20% in French presidency vote (JERUSALEM POST) By GIL SHEFLER 04/23/12)
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Far-rightist Marine Le Pen threw the French presidential race wide
open on Sunday by scoring nearly 20 percent in the first round –
votes that may determine a runoff between Socialist favorite Francois
Hollande and conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Hollande narrowly beat Sarkozy by 28.6% to 27.1%, the Interior
Ministry said, meaning the two will meet in a head-to-head decider on
May 6 that may be closer than had been expected.
My final duty, and I know I’m being watched from beyond our borders,
is to put Europe back on the path of growth and employment,” Hollande
said in a speech at his headquarters.
Le Pen’s record score of 19.6% was the sensation of the night,
beating her father’s 2002 result and outpolling hard leftist Jean-Luc
Melenchon in fourth place with 11%. Centrist Francois Bayrou finished
fifth with less than 9%.
It was the first time a sitting president seeking reelection had been
beaten into second place in the first round. But Sarkozy backers at
his campaign headquarters chanted “We are going to win,” interpreting
Le Pen’s score as more significant than Hollande’s narrow lead over
Before voting, opinion polls had suggested a comfortable win for the
Socialist in the second round.
Dozens of gatherers at a screening of the election results in Tel
Aviv on Sunday night cheered as the results were announced.
The guests, who were invited to a soirée held on the rooftop of the
French Institute to mark the election, had mixed reactions when news
broke that the current president came in second and jeered at the
mention of Le Pen.
Some 150 French diplomats, expats and Israeli Francophiles attended
the soirée. Two jumbo screens tuned to French news channels were
placed on the broad balcony overlooking Rothschild Boulevard in
anticipation of the poll results. Guests including French Ambassador
Christophe Bigot and Israeli journalist Yaron London sipped French
merlot while debating the pros and cons of the candidates.
Earlier on Sunday, a long and relatively orderly line – a rarity in
this sometimes impatient part of the world – formed outside the
French Embassy in Tel Aviv. “There are some 62,000 registered voters
in Israel,” said Bigot.
“There are many, many more French citizens here but that is the
number of those registered to vote. I don’t know how many will vote
but I hope that as many as possible will.”
The embassy is conveniently located near Ben Yehuda Street, an area
of Tel Aviv where many French Jews own second homes. Along the
street, immobiliers outnumber real estate agents and restaurants
catering to the observant Jews of France prominently place kosher
signs on their windows. On the day of the election, French could be
heard on almost every corner.
Meanwhile in Haifa, Noam Schalit, whose son was held captive by Hamas
for years, voted at the local French consulate, media reported.
Schalit, who lobbied Sarkozy to pressure the Palestinian group to
return Gilad, did not say how he voted.
Hervé Schneid, a film editor from Paris, said he supported “anybody
“The president should be a superior person,” he said. “But he is
ruthless, uneducated and without any morals.”
Jonathan Itteh, who lives in Givatayim and is from Marseille, said he
voted at the last minute for Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, from Arise the
Public, but in the run-off he plans to vote for Sarkozy.
“Hollande in my opinion is dangerous to Israel if he is elected,
especially in the case of a strike on Iran,” he said.
Joanna Simone-Bigart, a 27-year-old Jerusalemite from Strasbourg, was
particularly worried about the strong showing for Le Pen.
“I have a big problem because I cannot believe that in 2012 we can
still see a rightist get so many votes,” she said.
Le Pen’s unexpectedly high score reflected a surge in anti-
establishment populist parties in many euro zone countries from the
Netherlands to Greece as austerity and the debt crisis bite.
“This first round is the start of a vast gathering of right-wing
patriots,” Le Pen told cheering supporters at her campaign
headquarters, without endorsing either of the finalists. “Nothing
will ever be the same again.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post
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