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Last Updated: Monday, 8 January 2007, 15:25 GMT
Le Pen sees himself as president

Jean-Marie Le Pen during a press conference at his party headquarters in Saint Cloud outside Paris
Le Pen still enjoys substantial support
French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen says he is confident he can win the country's presidential poll in April.

Mr Le Pen - who shocked many by qualifying for the second round in 2002 - predicted he would do so again thanks to divisions within the centre-right.

He added that he could win a run-off against the socialist candidate.

Mr Le Pen was eventually trounced by Jacques Chirac in 2002. Anxious to keep the far-right leader from office, even left-wing opponents backed Mr Chirac.

Opinion polls suggest up to 17% of voters currently intend to vote for Mr Le Pen compared with about 9% at the same stage of the 2002 election.

In a New Year message to the press, he said rivalries within the governing UPM party would push him ahead of the centre-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy.

"As in 2002 I will probably be in the second round of the presidential election," said the 78-year-old leader of the National Front.

"But unlike in 2002, this time I can win the election, because I will probably be facing a candidate of the left - which will at least offer voters the choice between two radically different alternatives."

Under the French system, if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in a presidential election, the top two contenders face each other in a second round.

Mr Le Pen also repeated long-standing complaints against the media, which he said were boycotting his campaign, and against the political establishment, which he accused of trying to block his candidacy.

Candidates have until 20 March to gather 500 signatures from elected officials to be able to run for president.

As in 2002, Mr Le Pen is finding it difficult to get endorsements because potential sponsors are put off by the stigma of publicly backing him.

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