- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

PARIS French political leaders of all stripes tucked away their differences yesterday and threw support behind President Jacques Chirac in an attempt to thwart a hard-line nationalist's bid for power.
"It is the honor of our country that is at stake," said Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former finance minister and spokesman for defeated Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, explaining why he would support the conservative Mr. Chirac.
He was joined by a host of other defeated presidential hopefuls and their allies, all still not quite able to believe that Jean-Marie Le Pen, a man who once called Nazi gas chambers a "detail of history," had outpolled all but Mr. Chirac in Sunday's first round to advance to the presidential runoff.
At a news conference yesterday, Mr. Le Pen declared himself "the candidate of the French people against the candidate of the system."
"The French by their sovereign power decided to shake up our current system," he said.
Mr. Le Pen's second-place finish was a crushing blow to the political left and to Mr. Jospin, prime minister for the last five years, who declared the results a "thunderbolt" and announced his resignation from politics.
Mr. Jospin had been widely expected to advance to the May 5 runoff against Mr. Chirac.
The results brought thousands of anti-Le Pen demonstrators into the streets of France's major cities Sunday night, with police in Paris using tear gas to disperse marchers heading for Mr. Chirac's Elysee Palace.
Spontaneous demonstrations continued yesterday, especially among the young, in Marseille, Strasbourg, Paris, Toulouse and other cities. "F like fascist, N like Nazi," some cried in Lyon, playing on the initials of Mr. Le Pen's National Front party.
[The results also prompted Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Elie Yishai to call on Jews of France yesterday to emigrate to Israel.
[Mr. Yishai, who is also the interior minister, "held extensive talks with the leaders of the French Jewish community and urged them to pack up and emigrate to Israel," Mr. Yishai's Shas Party said in a statement.]
Polls predict Mr. Chirac will defeat Mr. Le Pen in the runoff. Still, that wasn't enough to blunt the shock waves reverberating through France.
"NO," cried the leftist daily Liberation on its front page. "The shock" was the headline of Le Parisien.
In a column titled "The wound," the publisher of the respected Le Monde daily, Jean-Marie Colombani, wrote that "France is wounded. And, for many of the French, humiliated."
Some European politicians were expressing shock, although most said they were confident Mr. Chirac would defeat Mr. Le Pen in May.

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