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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Le Pen success: What does it mean for race relations?
Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is through to the second round of presidential elections in France.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who was neck and neck with the incumbent President Jacques Chirac in opinion polls ahead of the election, has announced his retirement from political life.

Voter apathy was widespread among the French electorate with a record low turnout.

Thousands of people demonstrated against Le Pen and his anti-immigration policies in French cities last night.

What will Le Pen's success mean for the large African immigrant community in France? What will be the effect on race relations throughout Europe?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your comments:

Well for me, Le pen coming to power will be very much dangerous for all Africans living in France. The fact that the very European Union would condemn his policies on racism shows the seroiusness of his assuming power. Again, Africans that today find themself in France I believe are those who ran from prosecution from their Countries. So coming back home now will mean death for them.
Joe Noutoua Wandah, Liberian Journalist exile in Accra


A wake up call to Africans

John M Kabia, UK
The strong performance of Le Pen in the French pools is a wake up call to Africans that it is time we start thinking seriously about rebuilding our shattered countries.
John M Kabia, A Sierra Leonean studying in the UK

I am afraid that while many French people say they are horrified by Le Pen's victory - many are also secretly pleased by the results. As a black man I have endured racism in France on a scale that only a suppressed black in South Africa could understand.
John Paul Momogamba, France, born in Zaire

The far right in Europe has probably reached its absolute limits. It relies on the prejudice of small minded people who are incapable of appreciating that ring-fenced non-cultures are a thing of the past. Because of improved transport, journeys which once took weeks can now be made in hours. As a result, people can and will move around the world. Sorry folks but you can shout "France for the French", "Scotland for the Scots" or even "Wimbledon for the Wombles" until the cows come home. You're just like King Canute trying to order the tide to go back. Please grow up soon and learn to live in the world as it is.
Charles Moore, Scotland


I expect that 'race' is going to be the biggest issue in European politics for the next decade at least.

Adam Heunis, United Kingdom
The interesting thing is that the whole of Europe is shifting to the right. It is not really surprising though. People want to protect themselves. I am not sure if that is a bad thing.

I expect that 'race' is going to be the biggest issue in European politics for the next decade at least. Many European have in the past thought of themselves as the champions of the poor etc. Now that these problems are on their own front door, they are forced to look at the situation differently.

Also, it must be said that if the French mainstream political leadership were stronger then an extremist like Le Pen would never have made it this far. The French are truly leaderless. A danger to ANY society.
Adam Heunis, United Kingdom

The outcome of these elections are a reflection of voter turnout as well as the mood of a nation at any given time. I've seen such far right as well as far left candidates have some degree of success when apathy is the mood of an electorate rather than an honest reflection of the will of it's citizens. This should be a reminder of the importance of the power of the vote.
Herb Mckenzie, USA

The French people have every right to elect Le Pen as their leader. We cannot embrace democracy and denounce the will of the French people in electing Le Pen. If France is overwhelmed by masses of migrants some French people will have a knee-jerk reaction that is antagonistic and even extreme. As proud African people we must develop our own countries. We must have both political and economic systems that will sustain us and lead us to being stronger nations just like France or the United States. Failure to do so will force us to immigrate to other countries where we must seek political, economic and social acceptance. This will always put us at a disadvantage and at the mercy of the citizens of these countries whose political and social preferences will always override our needs and wants in a foreign country.
George Mutua, Kenya


More Le Pens will undoubtedly emerge

Tony, USA
The continuing rightward swing across Europe is inevitable. European populations are getting richer and growing at a slower rate. Developing countries are getting poorer and their populations continue to expand rapidly. Add to that the immense technological advantages and unfair trade practices and lopsided "globalisation" widely adopted by the rich countries against the poor countries, and you have a recipe for exploding immigration. Europe and the USA can only build walls so high to keep out the destitute masses of humanity. Immigrants will always overcome the hurdles somehow. And increasing immigration will create an ever stronger right-wing backlash. Le Pen just happened to get the timing right. More Le Pens will undoubtedly emerge. What we all have to learn is that skin colour, language and where one was born are all irrelevant to what rights one has. We need real globalisation, where mobility of labour is given as much prominence as mobility of capital.
Tony, USA


There is going to be mutual suspicion between the French and all ethnic minorities

Cillaty Daboh, USA/ Sierra Leone
Le Pen's success will put race relationships back twenty years. There is going to be mutual suspicion between the French and all ethnic minorities. Le Pen by himself is harmless but what the rest of the world should keep in mind is that about 17% of the French electorate voted for him and for me that is the most frightening aspect.
James Akabwai, UK

If Le Pen actually carries out his threat, imagine how much money Africans will save if he refuses our dictators a home in France with their looted money.
Cillaty Daboh, USA/ Sierra Leone

Instead of covert racism we will have overt racism. France aids a system of poverty and corruption in Africa and then complains about economic migrants from these countries.
Stephen, UK

As an African living in France I have already started feeling the effects of Le Pen's success. I went to a café in my neighbourhood where an elderly customer seriously asked me if I had begun packing my suitcases. Le Pen is the only politician who says what most people think in France.
Benjamin Sehene, France


Nothing will change much for the former French colonies in Africa

Elute Penda, USA
Chirac or Le Pen, nothing will change much for the former French colonies in Africa, which are still ruled from Paris with an iron fist. France is exploiting and plundering these countries even more than it did when it was their colonial master. So we do not care who occupies the Elysee, we just want France to leave us alone, get out and leave us in peace.
Elute Penda, USA

As an African, I'd like to see Le Pen win. In France the mainstream left and right are evil twins in a mafia of corruption that has seen the support of incompetent and corrupt tyrants in Africa. Their support for these discredited regimes has been a factor in the poor performance and management of the economies especially in Francophone Africa. This has had a direct impact on the massive wave of migration by Africans to France and the West. I hope Le Pen's showing brings an end to business as usual in the morally bankrupt policies of the monied and arrogant establishment.
TBW, Cameroon/USA


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22 Apr 02 | Africa
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