French candidate's patriotism gains votes

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NANTERRE, France — She calls herself the anti-system candidate who will ensure social justice for the have-nots and purify a France losing its voice to Europe and threatened by massive immigration and
rampant Islamization.

The message of far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has seduced thousands, kept her consistently in third place in polls and scared President Nicolas Sarkozy as he seeks a second term.

The conservative Sarkozy is trying to woo those who would vote for Le Pen in Sunday’s first round of balloting to bridge the gap with frontrunner Francois Hollande, a Socialist whom all polls show will win the May 6 election.

In an interview Wednesday on BFM-TV, Sarkozy named her directly, asking, “The vote for Marine Le Pen serves whom? Francois Hollande.”

Le Pen, putting the accent on patriotism, deplores what she says is France’s loss of sovereignty to the European Union and to globalization, the nation’s perceived loss of identity and what she claims are real dangers hidden within France’s Muslim community, is the largest in western Europe.

Le Pen wants France, and other euro zone nations, to give up the euro currency. She wants to drastically reduce the number of immigrants — to 10,000 a year — and, a top theme, to crack down for good on what she claims is the growing footprint of Islamic fundamentalists in France.

The image Marine Le Pen projects is less linked to the extreme-right than that of her father, said Nonna Meyer, an expert on the extreme-right vote at the prestigious university Sciences Politiques.

Meyer said that it is impossible at this point to predict how Le Pen will fare in Sunday’s balloting because there are too many unknowns, including the level of voter turnout.

“I think there really is no chance that Marine Le Pen will be in the second round,” she added.