Interview: Le Pen Decries Third-World Immigration
STRASBOURG, FRANCE — JEAN-MARIE LE PEN does not look like a man facing a censure vote from his parliamentary colleagues - for the fourth time. The request from the French Ministry of Justice to lift his parliamentary immunity so that legal action could be taken against him for allegedly racist remarks would be voted down. But, interviewed a day before the Oct. 17 vote, the leader of France's National Front seemed to welcome the controversy.
``The media have waged a veritable war against me,'' he said. ``And this war didn't stop me. One could even say it helped me to have influence with the people.''
He rejects the label ``extremist'': ``The term `extreme right' is a term used by our adversaries. But we are not extremists. Our movement has existed since 1963, and our program is republican and democratic.... We think the nation is the best defense of liberty. We are opposed to all internationalism and cosmopolitanism.
``This has made us resolute enemies of immigration coming from the third world. We think that each people must find in its own native land ... the means of its own development.
He also rejects the term ``rascist'':
``Each people has a duty to preserve its own cultural identity. I love my daughter more than my cousin, my cousin more than my neighbor. My neighbor more than a stranger, and a stranger more than an enemy. But that isn't to say that I hate my neighbor.''
The National Front rejects the idea that ``mixing the races is a sign of progress,'' he says. ``Take the case of Israel: After 2,000 years, these people aren't integrated. Even in the United States, at best there is only cohabitation among major ethnic groups. There is not real integration except at the margins.''
Le Pen won 14.4 percent of the vote when he ran for president in 1988 and 11.8 percent of the vote in the 1989 elections for the European Parliament. Voters in exit polls cited fear of immigration, crime, and unemployment as reasons for their vote.
Activists in the city of Strasbourg (where the National Front has gained ground in recent elections) and in the European Parliament have found the Le Pen formula difficult to beat.
Lawyer Raphael Nisand has been working with the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism to support the legal rights of immigrants. He reluctantly describes Le Pen as setting the agenda for French political life. ``If there were a recipe for thwarting him, I would have used it.''
Many Le Pen supporters in prosperous Alsace are ``voters who think the past was better,'' he says. ``Those who admire Germany's stature and economic power. They say, `Germany got rid of the Turks and now they've come here. To be strong, we must do the same.'''