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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
Le Pen vote alarms Africa
Jean-Marie Le pen
A worrying prospect for many in Africa

The press in France's former African colonies has expressed dismay at the success of the far-right National Front in the first round of the presidential election.


The [second-round] vote will determine whether France remains a country for the whole world, or turn in on itself in darkness

Le Soleil newspaper
Senegal

Its candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, told a Senegalese newspaper that while he opposed "massive immigration", he was all in favour of maintaining strong Franco-African relations.

But that cuts little ice with commentators in Senegal.

Le Matin newspaper says Mr Le Pen remains a racist extremist, even if he has appeared more moderate in this last campaign.

Illegal migrants evicted after a occupying a church in 1996
France has been trying to clamp down on illegal immigration

Another Senegalese newspaper, Le Soleil, asks: "Have the French gone crazy?"

The paper identifies why its journalists - and its readers - are so upset: a second-round battle between the incumbent Jacques Chirac and Mr Le Pen will be about far more than the fate of Senegalese workers in France, Le Soleil says.

"Nor will it be about tax policies or state employment," it says.

"This vote will determine whether France remains a country for the whole world, or turn in on itself in darkness."

French model

All these years after independence, the educated classes in the former colonies still see France as in some way theirs.

They look to France - with all its imperfections - as a role model, an example of democracy, tolerance and civilised behaviour.

Now they are shocked at the triumph of what Notre Voie in the Ivory Coast calls a racist, xenophobic France.

Jacques Chirac
Chirac is the favourite for the second round

Another Senegalese daily, Sud Quotidien, asks what the result says about the values of French voters.

Whether you like Lionel Jospin or not, it says, you have to agree that he is a sincere and honest man.

Yet he was voted out and the two second-round places have gone, Sud Quotidien says, to a fascist, racist xenophobe and a president comedians have ridiculed for his record in office.

So have probity, honesty and moral rigour fallen out of fashion?

The writer goes on to ask what the result implies for the emerging democracies which learned their politics from France.

It concludes that one of the characteristics of democracy is that anything can happen and that, despite everything, is one of its charms.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Sopel in Paris
"No one expected the National Front to be seriously bidding for power"
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"The country's political landscape is in turmoil"
Deputy leader of the National Front Bruno Gollnish
"We are preparing big rallies everywhere in France"

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