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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Profile: Jean-Marie Le Pen
Jean-Marie Le Pen
Jean-Marie Le Pen is standing for election again at 78

French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was born in 1928 in the Brittany town of La Trinite-sur-Mer.

He joined the Foreign Legion in 1954, seeing action in Indochina and Algeria.

His political career began in 1956, when he became a deputy for the shopkeepers' party of Pierre Poujade.

In 1965 he helped run the election campaign of far-right candidate Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour, and in 1972 he set up the National Front (FN).

With his dire warnings that North African immigration was threatening French life, he pushed his share of the presidential vote up from 0.74% in 1974 to 14% in 1988, 15% in 1995 and 18% in 2002.

In the meantime, the parliamentary fortunes of the FN rose and fell.

Power struggle

It won 35 seats in 1986 after changes to the voting system introduced by the late Socialist President Francois Mitterrand.

You can't dispute the inequality of the races
Jean Marie Le Pen

But the party was wiped out as a political force in the French parliament in 2002, getting no seats.

However, it won seven seats in the European Parliament in 2004 and is now the dominant force in its newly formed far-right group, Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS).

In 1998 Mr Le Pen's heir-apparent - backroom technocrat Bruno Megret - launched a bid for power.

He was swiftly ousted, but the party has never fully recovered.

Shock result

Mr Le Pen is never far from controversy.

In 1987 he described the Holocaust as a "detail of history", and later fell foul of the law for an election punch-up with a socialist rival - which almost cost him his seat in the European parliament.

In 2002 he shocked the French establishment when he made it to the final round of the presidential election on 17%, knocking out Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin on the way.

In April 2003 he named his daughter, Marine, a 34-year-old lawyer seen as a moderniser, as one of the party's five vice-presidents.

Bruno Gollnisch, seen by some as his replacement when he eventually retires, leads the ITS.

'Unequal races'

Having entered the 2007 race with a similar platform to past contests, the FN leader was knocked out in the first round, coming fourth with 10.44% of the vote.

He had campaigned on doing away with the euro, ending immigration and deregulating the economy while slapping heavy taxes on imports.

After appearing to take a softer line on race relations, he told Le Monde newspaper just weeks before the first round that not all races were equal.

"An old person is not equal to a young person, a person with one leg is not a star dancer," he said.

"You can't dispute the inequality of the races, which I have shown when I say that it is obvious that blacks are much better than whites at running but whites are better at swimming."

Advocating "zero immigration", he said the problems of France's suburbs could not be solved by "sending in the riot police and tanks".


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