- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

PARIS French President Jacques Chirac and his opponent, Jean-Marie Le Pen, held their final public rallies yesterday for Sunday's tense French presidential election.
The most recent IPSOS opinion poll forecast a landslide victory in the second round of voting for Mr. Chirac, the conservative incumbent, who is expected to win between 74 and 81 percent of the vote.
The media establishment in France, which failed to predict the outcome of first-round voting on April 21, in which Mr. Le Pen finished second behind Mr. Chirac, praised Wednesday's May Day rallies that turned into a massive protest against Mr. Le Pen.
"Yesterday they came out against Jean-Marie Le Pen. By their hundreds of thousands. They want to stop him and reaffirm a certain idea of La France, which is not that of the extreme right," said an editorial in the country's leading conservative daily, Le Figaro.
The charismatic Mr. Le Pen said yesterday that rallies against him and his nationalist, anti-immigrant FN party left him "completely indifferent."
"I listen to voters, not to protesters," he told France Inter radio. "I've never accepted the law of the street, but rather the law of the ballot boxes. Democratic reality is only counted at the ballot boxes."
Mr. Le Pen vowed to pursue his political agenda even if defeated on Sunday, saying he would lead his party in June's legislative polls.
In the first round, Mr. Le Pen won 5 million votes compared with 5.9 million for Mr. Chirac with the remainder of 29.6 million ballots divided among 14 other candidates.
Mr. Chirac was to address supporters at a rally in Villepinte outside Paris yesterday evening while Mr. Le Pen chose France's second-biggest city, Marseilles, for his final show.
Mr. Le Pen's supporters said he would try to regain momentum in Marseilles after 10,000 to 20,000 marched on his behalf in Paris on Wednesday, far short of the 100,000 predicted by his right-wing party.
Some 1,500 police had been mobilized ahead of Mr. Le Pen's rally in the Mediterranean port city last night.
"Anyone who tries to do battle with or approach the police will be caught and detained," said Marseilles police Chief Yves Dassonville.
Alain Juppe, a former prime minister and close Chirac ally, called for a huge turnout on Sunday but warned that the "battle will not end on May 5."
"It's not enough to ensure the victory of Jacques Chirac we must go beyond that and give him the means to govern, with a majority," he told Europe 1 radio.
Mr. Juppe said Mr. Chirac could name an interim government by Monday or Tuesday.
Parties on the left and right have called on voters to hand Mr. Le Pen a crushing defeat, but the left is hoping to bounce back with a strong showing in the parliamentary elections.

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