- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2003

PARIS, April 19 (UPI) — France's far-right National Front Party is feting its 30th anniversary this year, during a two-day retreat this weekend in Nice. The annual congress comes almost a year after the Front's founder and leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, rocked the nation by placing second in French presidential elections.

But now, it is his 34-year-old lawyer-daughter Marine who is capturing the media spotlight. Blond and blue-eyed, and a twice-married mother of three, Marine Le Pen presents a softer National Front. She offered her vision of the party's future and her own political ambitions during a recent interview with United Press International's Paris correspondent, Elizabeth Bryant, and a small group of foreign reporters in Paris.

UPI: Is it difficult being the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen?

Le Pen: Yes, absolutely. From an early age, I was a victim to very disagreeable reactions, and I felt a great sense of injustice. My career as a lawyer was probably linked to this feeling.

My entire life has been conditioned to the fact that I'm the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen. Social relations. Friends. Love relations. Professional opportunities. I would have had a hard time, if I'd wanted to be an actor, for example. Many professional doors have been closed.

Q: Why did you decide to enter politics?

A: There comes a time when justice become important. You ask yourself, as a lawyer, whether you can fix an injustice. Should you try other methods? And then of course, politics is a virus. It's hard to explain a passion. It's life, it's everything.

Q: So what are the differences between you and your father?

A: There are a thousand differences. We weren't born under similar circumstances, our history is different. He fought alone for years. He was derided, reporters were very hard on him. And when people are aggressive, you become aggressive at times. When people call you a Nazi and a fascist, it's hard to stay calm.

Q: Have you been called a Nazi and a fascist?

A: No, not at all. But now, he's treated better as well. People say, "Le Pen has changed." But he didn't change. The journalists just changed their approach toward him.

Q: Do you want to eventually replace your father as head of the National Front?

A: I can't say today I'll never head the National Front. If someday I'm considered the most emblematic, or the person who appears to draw the greatest number of followers — or the most efficient leader — then we'll see. But I'm only 34 years old — which is pretty young in French politics.

And my first goal is the election of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2007 presidential elections. The entire movement is centered on this objective. But you never should say "no" in politics.

Q: Is the National Front willing to unite with other parties to form a coalition government, if that possibility is presented?

A: We don't want to experience the (Jorg) Haider syndrome (in which Austria's far-right party played a secondary role in the country's coalition government). We want to assemble others around us, but we want to be the governing party. If not, we'd be forced to make important concessions — so important that we'd lose our voters.

Q: Interior Minister Nicholoas Sarkozy appears to have hijacked the National Front's law-and-order message, by cracking down on crime and illegal immigration. What's your response?

A: I don't think so. Jean-Marie Le Pen denounced many problems before they arrived. He said if immigration wasn't dealt with, it would pose a considerable problem in the future. He said the same thing about insecurity. Nobody listened to him. The fact that Mr. Sarkozy agrees on our observations gives our position a lot of credibility. But he only attacks the surface of problems — he doesn't fundamentally resolve them.

Q: What's your position on immigration?

A: Immigration may be perfectly OK, but there should be rules in place. France should have the last say on inviting foreigners in, and on deciding how long they stay. We welcome those who help improve our country. But it's this totally lax attitude that's creating all kinds of problems — including for the immigrants.

Q: What about second-generation (immigrant) youth, who feel alienated here? What do you propose for them?

A: I think we need to re-examine everything. We've let everything go for more than 30 years, and there are no more rules. No moral codes. No respect for Republican rules. These youths need to feel they are French — because they are French. And to feel French you need to love France — which first means respecting French laws, and state authority.

We need to get rid of the ghettos that have been created by the Socialists and the Communists. We gave these immigrants a bad deal. They arrived here thinking this was El Dorado. And we parked them in these dormitories, and left their children in ignorance and illiteracy. I'm for an immigration policy that welcomes fewer — but offers them a better welcome.

Q: What do you think of Mr. Sarkozy's project creating an official Muslim Council of France?

A: I think the government has created a time bomb. Mr. Sarkozy has gathered the mosque of Paris, the mosque of Lyon and the Muslim Brotherhood together. The mosques of Paris and of Lyon are controlled by Algeria and Morocco (respectively). The Muslim Brotherhood is a radical form of Islam. So we're legitimating radical Islam in France. We need to have Muslims finance their own places of worship, and crack down on foreign funding.

Q: Analysts say you've been able to capture new support for the National Front — but that you're not necessarily popular within your own party. Do you sense hostility within the ranks?

A: Not at all. I go out of Paris about three times a week, And I get a greeting that's extremely warm among supporters. There's a real feeling of expectation. This younger "generation Le Pen" concept is very well-received.

Q: What about Bruno Gollnisch (Jean-Marie Le Pen's long-term No. 2, and considered a rival of Marine Le Pen)? Do you get along?

A: Mr. Gollnisch is not a personal friend, but he's a leader in the National Front. I have no problem, at the moment, with Bernard Gollnisch.


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