French far-right candidate says "non" to skinheads

Wed Apr 27, 2011 9:03am EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - The new leader of France's National Front warned skinheads to stay away from the far-right party's annual labor day parade this weekend, intensifying her efforts to clean up its image ahead of elections next year.

Marine Le Pen also said she would not revoke her decision to expel a 21-year-old regional councilor photographed in a Nazi salute from the National Front despite complaints from senior party figures, including her father, former party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Le Pen, who opinion polls show could qualify for the second round of the presidential polls next year at the expense of unpopular President Nicolas Sarkozy, has been credited with giving the National Front a more acceptable face for voters.

Ahead of Sunday's march, Le Pen said she would try harder this year to make sure extremists did not tarnish the party's reputation.

"We were victims in the past. We still are victims sometimes of a certain number of provocateurs," she told RTL radio.

"They attract the cameras like flies and they come to get themselves a little publicity. It's absolutely normal that we would protect ourselves from these kind of provocations."

Le Pen said the party had always told regional organizers to keep out extremists, but it was not easy to ensure the instructions were followed at a march attracting thousands of people. "I will make sure they are (this time)," she said.

A telegenic former attorney, Le Pen has sought since taking the party reins in January to attract mainstream French voters fed up with rising unemployment, static wages and what she has called an "invasion" of immigrants, largely from North Africa.   Continued...