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Jean-Marie Le Pen (born 20 June 1928) is a French conservative and nationalist politician who is founder and president of the Front National (National Front) party. Le Pen has run for the French presidency five times, including in 2002, when in a surprise upset he came second, polling more votes in the first round than the main left candidate, Lionel Jospin. Le Pen lost in the second round to Jacques Chirac. Le Pen again ran in the 2007 French presidential election and finished fourth. His 2007 campaign, at the age of 78 years and 9 months, makes him the oldest candidate for presidential office in France.

Le Pen focuses on immigration to France, the European Union, traditional culture, law and order and France's high rate of unemployment. He advocates immigration restrictions, the death penalty, raising incentives for homemakers, and euroscepticism. He strongly opposes same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and abortion.

Personal life and early career

Le Pen was born in La Trinité-sur-Mer, a small seaside village in Brittany, the son of a fisherman but then orphaned as an adolescent (pupille de la nation, brought up by the state), when his father's boat was blown up by a mine in 1942. He was raised as a Roman Catholic and studied at the Jesuit high school François Xavier in Vannes, then in the lycée of Lorient.

Aged 16, he was turned down (because of his age) by Colonel Henri de La Vaissière (then representant of the Communist Youth) when he attempted, in November 1944, to join the French Forces of the Interior (FFI). He then entered the faculty of law in Parismarker, and started to sell in the street the monarchist Action française 's newspaper, Aspects de la France. He was repeatedly convicted of assault (coups et blessures). He became president of the Association corporative des étudiants en droit, an association of law students whose main occupation was to engage in street brawls against the "Cocos" (communists). He was excluded from this organisation in 1951 .
Jean-Marie Le Pen, September 2005

After receiving his law diploma, he enlisted in the Army in the Foreign Legion in Indochina, where he arrived after the 1954 Dien Bien Phu Battlemarker (lost by France, and which prompted the President of the Council Pierre Mendès France to put an end to the war at the Geneva Conference). He was then sent to Suez (1956), but arrived only after the cease-fire.

While being elected deputy of the French Parliament under the Poujadist banner, he voluntarily re-engaged himself for 2 to 3 months in the French Foreign Legion. He was then sent to Algeria (1957) as an intelligence officer. He has been accused of having engaged in torture, but he denied it, although he admitted knowing of its use. After his time in the military, he studied political science and law at Paris IImarker. His graduate thesis, submitted in 1971 by Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jean-Loup Vincent, was titled Le courant anarchiste en France depuis 1945 or "The anarchist movement in France since 1945".
Le Pen with his wife at a political rally in 2007
His marriage (29 June 1960 - 18 March 1987) to Pierrette Lalanne resulted in three daughters; their daughters have given him nine granddaughters. Their break-up was somewhat dramatic, with his ex-wife posing nude in the French edition of Playboy to ridicule him. Marie-Caroline, another of his daughters, would also break with Le Pen, following her husband to join Bruno Mégret, who split from the FN to found MNR, the rival Mouvement National Républicain (National Republican Movement). The youngest of Le Pen's daughters, Marine Le Pen, is a senior member of the Front National.

In 1977, Le Pen inherited a fortune from Hubert Lambert, son of the cement industrialist of the same name. Hubert Lambert was a political supporter of Le Pen, as well as being a monarchist, an alcoholic, and in poor health. Lambert's will provided 30 million francs (approximatively 5 million euros) to LePen, as well as his castle in Montretout, Saint-Cloud (the same castle had been owned by Madame de Pompadour until 1748).

In the early 1980s, Le Pen's personal security was assured by KO International Company, a subsidiary of VHP Security, a private security firm, and an alleged front organisation for SAC, the Service d'Action Civique (Civic Action Service), a Gaullist organisation. SAC allegedly employed figures with organized crime backgrounds and from the far-right movement.

On 31 May 1991, Jean-Marie Le Pen married Jeanne-Marie Paschos ("Jany"), of Greek descent. Born in 1933, Paschos was previously married to Belgian businessman Jean Garnier.

Le Pen is the godfather of the third daughter of Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, a comedian and political activist who moved from fighting the Front National to being very close to most of its senior members.

Political career

Le Pen started his political career as the head of the student union in Toulousemarker. In 1953, a year before the beginning of the Algerian War, he contacted President Vincent Auriol, who approved Le Pen's proposed volunteer disaster relief project after a flood in the Netherlands. Within two days, there were 40 volunteers from his university, a group that would later help victims of an earthquake in Italy. In Parismarker in 1956, he was elected to the National Assembly as a member of Pierre Poujade's UDCA populist party. Le Pen, 28 years old, was the youngest member of the Assembly.

In 1957, he became the General Secretary of the National Front of Combatants, a veterans' organization, as well as the first French politician to nominate a Muslim candidate, Ahmed Djebbour, an Algerian, elected in 1957 as deputy of Paris. The next year, following his break with Poujade, Le Pen was re-elected to the National Assembly as a member of the Centre National des Indépendants et Paysans (CNIP) party, led by Antoine Pinay. Le Pen claimed that he had lost his left eye when he was savagely beaten during the 1958 election campaign. Testimonies suggest however that he was only wounded in the right eye and did not lose it. He lost the sight in his left eye years later, due to an illness (popular belief that he wears a glass eye is untrue). During the 1950s, Le Pen took a close interest in the Algerian war (1954-62) and the French defense budget.

Le Pen then directed the 1965 presidential campaign of far-right candidate Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour, who obtained 5.19% of the votes. He insisted on the rehabilitation of the Collaborationists, declaring that:
"Was General de Gaulle more brave than the Marshall Pétain in the occupied zone?
This isn't sure.
It was much easier to resist in London than to resist in France."

In 1962, he lost his seat at the Assembly. He created the Serp (Société d’études et de relations publiques) firm, a company involved in the music industry, which produced both chorals of the CGT trade-union and songs of the Popular Front and Nazi marches. The firm was condemned in 1968 for "praise of war crime and complicity" after the diffusion of songs from the Third Reich.


In 1972, Le Pen founded the Front National (FN) party, along with former OAS member Jacques Bompard, former Collaborationist Roland Gaucher and others nostalgics of Vichy France, neo-nazi pagans, Catholic fundamentalist, etc. Le Pen presented himself for the first time in the 1974 presidential election, obtaining 0.74%. In 1976, his Parisian flat (he lived at that time in his castle of Montretout in Saint-Cloud) was dynamited. The affair never was elucidated. Le Pen then didn't manage to obtain the 500 signatures from "grand electors" (grands électeurs, mayors, etc.) necessary to present himself to the 1981 presidential election, won by the candidate of the Socialist Partymarker (PS), François Mitterrand.

Criticizing immigration and taking advantage of the economic crisis striking France, and the world, since the 1973 oil crisis, Le Pen's party managed to increase its votes in the 1980s, starting in the municipal elections of 1983. His popularity has been greatest in the south of France. The FN obtained 10 percent in the 1984 European elections. 34 FN deputies entered the Assembly after the 1986 elections (the only legislative elections held under proportional representation), which were won by the right wing, bringing Jacques Chirac to Matignon in the first cohabitation (that is, of the combination of a right-wing Prime minister, Chirac, with a socialist President, Mitterrand).

In 1984, Le Pen won a seat in the European Parliamentmarker and has been constantly re-elected since then. In 1988 he lost his reelection bid for the French National Assembly in the Bouches-du-Rh√īnemarker's 8th constituency. He was defeated in the second round by Socialistmarker Marius Masse. In 1992 and 1998 he was elected to the regional council of Provence-Alpes-C√īte-d'Azurmarker.

Le Pen ran in the French presidential elections in 1974, 1988, 1995, 2002, and 2007. As noted above, he was not able to run for office in 1981, having failed to gather the necessary 500 signatures of elected officials. In the presidential elections of 2002, Le Pen obtained 16.86 percent of the votes in the first round of voting. This was enough to qualify him for the second round, as a result of the poor showing by the PS candidate and incumbent prime minister Lionel Jospin and the scattering of votes among 15 other candidates. This was a major political event, both nationally and internationally, as it was the first time someone with such extremist views had qualified for the second round of the French presidential elections. There was a widespread stirring of national public opinion, and more than one million people in France took part in street rallies; slogans such as "vote for the crook, not the fascist" were heard in an expression of fierce opposition to Le Pen's ideas. Le Pen was then soundly defeated in the second round, when incumbent president Jacques Chirac obtained 82 percent of the votes, thus securing the biggest majority in the history of the Fifth Republic.

In the 2004 regional elections, Le Pen intended to run for office in the Provence-Alpes-C√īte-d'Azurmarker region but was prevented from doing so because he did not meet the conditions for being a voter in that region: he neither lived there, nor was registered as a taxpayer there. However, In 2009, he will be the FN's top candidate in the region for the 2010 regional elections.

In recent years, Le Pen has tried to soften his image, with mixed success. He has maneuvered his daughter Marine into a prominent position, a move that angered many inside the National Front, who worry about the emergence of a possible Le Pen family dynasty.

Electoral mandates

Political functions

  • President of the FN: since 1972


See also National Front for a summary of Le Pen's manifesto.

Le Pen remains a polarizing figure in France and opinions regarding him tend to be quite strong. A 2002 IPSOS poll showed that while 22 percent of the electorate have a good or very good opinion of Le Pen, and 13 percent an unfavorable opinion, 61 percent have a very unfavorable opinion.

Le Pen and the National Front are described by much of the media and nearly all commentators as far right. Le Pen himself and the rest of his party disagree with this label; earlier in his political career, Le Pen described his position as "Neither left nor right, but French" (Ni droite, ni gauche, fran√ßais). He later described his position as right-wing and opposed to the "socialo-communists" and other right-wing parties, which he deems are not real right-wing parties. At other times, for example during the 2002 election campaign, he declared himself "economically right-wing, socially left-wing, and nationally French". He further contends that most of the French political and media class are corrupt and out of touch with the real needs of the common people, and conspire to exclude Le Pen and his party from mainstream politics. Le Pen criticizes the other political parties as the "establishment" and lumped all major parties (Communist, Socialistmarker, Union for French Democracy (UDF) and Rally for the Republic (RPR)) into the "Gang of Four" (la bande des quatre ‚Äď an allusion to the Gang of Four during Chinamarker's Cultural Revolution).

The international media often cites Le Pen as a symbol of French xenophobia. He is also occasionally criticized in French and foreign pop songs.

Controversial statements

Le Pen has been accused and convicted several times at home and abroad of xenophobia and anti-Semitism. A Paris court found in February 2005 that his openly verbal criticisms, such as remarks disparaging Muslims in a 2003 Le Monde interview, were "inciting racial hatred", and he was fined 10,000 euros and ordered to pay an additional 5,000 euros in damages to the Ligue des droits de l'homme (League for Human Rights). The conviction and fines were upheld by the Court of Cassation in 2006.

  • In May 1987, he advocated the forced isolation from society of all people infected with HIV, by placing them in a special "sidatorium". In the same interview he incorrectly declared that AIDS was a form of leprosy. "Sida√Įque" is Le Pen's pejorative solecism for "person infected with AIDS" (the more usual French term is "s√©ropositif" (seropositive)
  • On 21 June 1995, he attacked singer Patrick Bruel on his policy of no longer singing in the city of Toulonmarker because the city had just elected a mayor from the National Front. Le Pen said "the city of Toulon will then have to get along without the vocalisations of singer Benguigui". Benguigui, a Jewish name, is Bruel's name at birth
  • In February 1997, Le Pen accused Chirac of being "on the payroll of Jewish organizations, and particularly of the B'nai B'rith"
  • Le Pen once made the infamous pun "Durafour-cr√©matoire" ("four cr√©matoire" meaning "crematory oven") about then minister Michel Durafour, who had said in public a few days before "One must exterminate the National Front". This was made in reference to the crematories in which both living and dead victims of the Nazi holocaust were placed
  • In June 2006, he claimed that the French World Cup squad contained too many non-white players, and was not an accurate reflection of French society. He went on to scold players for not singing La Marseillaise, saying they were not 'French'
  • In the 2007 election campaign, he referred to fellow candidate Nicolas Sarkozy as 'foreign' or 'the foreigner' due to Sarkozy's Hungarian, Greek, and Sephardic Jewish heritage

Arguing that his party includes people of various ethnic or religious origins like Jean-Pierre Cohen, Farid Smahi or Huguette Fatna, he has attributed some anti-Semitism in France to the effects of Muslim immigration to Europe and suggested that some part of the Jewish community in France might eventually come to appreciate National Front ideology.

Prosecution concerning historical revisionism and Holocaust denial

Le Pen has made several provocative statements concerning the Holocaust, which amount to historical revisionism and has been convicted of racism or inciting racial hatred at least six times. Thus, on 13 September 1987 he said: "I ask myself several questions. I'm not saying the gas chambers didn't exist. I haven't seen them myself. I haven't particularly studied the question. But I believe it's just a detail in the history of World War II." He was condemned under the Gayssot Act on negationism to pay 1.2 million Francs (183,200 Euros).In 1997, the European Parliamentmarker, of which Le Pen was then a member, removed his parliamentary immunity so that Le Pen could be tried by a German court for comments he made at a December 1996 press conference before the German Republikaner party. Echoing his 1987 remarks in France, Le Pen stated: "If you take a 1,000-page book on World War II, the concentration camps take up only two pages and the gas chambers 10 to 15 lines. This is what one calls a detail." In June 1999, a Munichmarker court found this statement to be "minimizing the Holocaust, which caused the deaths of six million Jews," and convicted and fined Le Pen for his remarks.

Prosecution, allegations of torture and association with militarists

In April 2000, Le Pen was suspended from the European Parliamentmarker following prosecution for the physical assault of Socialist candidate Annette Peulvast-Bergeal during the 1997 general election. This ultimately led to him losing his seat in the European parliament in 2003. The Versailles appeals court banned him from seeking office for one year.

Le Pen allegedly practiced torture during the Algerian War (1954-1962), when he was a lieutenant in the French Army. Although he denied it, he lost a trial when he attacked Le Monde newspaper on charges of defamation, following accusations by the newspaper that he had used torture. Le Monde has produced in May 2003 the dagger he allegedly used to commit war crimes as court evidence.

Although war crimes committed during the Algerian War are amnestied in France, this was publicised by the newspapers Le Canard Encha√ģn√© and Lib√©ration, Le Monde and by Michel Rocard (ex-Prime Minister) on TV (TF1marker 1993). Le Pen sued the papers and Michel Rocard. This affair ended in 2000 when the "Cour de cassation" (French supreme jurisdiction) concluded that it was legitimate to publish these assertions. However, because of the amnesty and the statute of limitations, there can be no criminal proceedings against Le Pen for the crimes he is alleged to have committed in Algeria. In 1995, Le Pen unsuccessfully sued Jean Dufour, regional counselor of the Provence-Alpes-C√īte d'Azurmarker (French Communist Party) for the same reason.

Le Pen has also been criticized for ties to suspect individuals, such as:

Comments on the Right

Some of Le Pen's statements led other far-right groups, such as the Austrian Freedom Party, and some National Front supporters to distance themselves from him. Bruno Mégret left the National Front to found his own party (the National Republican Movement, MNR), claiming that Le Pen kept the Front away from the possibility of gaining power. Mégret wanted to emulate Gianfranco Fini's success in Italy by making it possible for right-wing parties to ally themselves with the Front, but claimed that Le Pen's attitude and outrageous speech prevented this. Le Pen's daughter Marine leads an internal movement of the Front that wants to "normalize" the National Front, "de-enclave" it, have a "culture of government" etc.; however, relations with Le Pen and other supporters of the hard line are complex. Over the years, Le Pen gained widespread popularity among neo-Nazis and white nationalists throughout Europe and North America.

As Le Pen, like many other European nationalists in recent years, has made statements highly critical of American foreign policy and culture, he has received notice from American conservatives. Controversial author Ann Coulter called him an anti-American adulterer but said his anti-immigration, anti-Muslim message "finally hit a nerve with voters" after years of irrelevance. Paleoconservative commentator Pat Buchanan contends that even though Le Pen "made radical and foolish statements," the EU violated his right to freedom of speech. He wrote:
As it is often the criminal himself who is first to cry, "Thief!" so it is usually those who scream, "Fascist!" loudest who are the quickest to resort to anti-democratic tactics.
Today, the greatest threat to the freedom and independence of the nations of Europe comes not from Le Pen and that 17% of French men and women who voted for him.
It comes from an intolerant European Establishment that will accept no rollback of its powers or privileges, nor any reversal of policies it deems "progressive".

European Reform Treaty

Le Pen has been a vocal critic of the European Reform Treaty (formally known as the Treaty of Lisbon) which is due to be ratified by EU member states before 1 January 2009. In October 2007, Le Pen suggested that he would personally visit the Republic of Ireland to assist the "No" campaign but finally changed his mind fearing that his presence would be used against the supporters of the NO vote. Ireland finally refused to ratify the treaty. Ireland is the only EU country which had a citizen referendum. All other EU states, including France, ratified the treaty by parliamentary vote, despite a previous citizen referendum where over 55 percent of French voters rejected the European Reform Treaty.

After the Irish "No" vote, Le Pen addressed the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, accusing him of furthering the agenda of a "cabal of international finance and free market fanatics." Ireland has since accepted the treaty in a second Lisbon referendum.

See also


  1. Quand Le Pen voulait rejoindre les FFI, L'Express, 28 March 2007
  2. Assemblée nationale - Les députés de la IVe République : Jean-Marie LE PEN
  4. Le Pen, son univers impitoyable, Radio France Internationale, 2006-09-01
  5. Le général croate Gotovina arrêté en Espagne, RFI, 8 December 2005
  6. Le chauffeur de l’homme de la Question, L'Humanité, 10 December 2005
  7. Marius Masse biography
  8. FN list of candidates
  9. - Political Action Barometer (French)
  10. "Le Pen convicted of inciting racial hatred for anti-Muslim remarks", Associated Press, 2 April 2004, Retrieved 18 October 2008
  11. "France's far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen convicted of inciting racial hatred", Associated Press, 11 May 2006, Retrieved 18 October 2008
  12. "Le Pen et le sida: les modes de contagion et l'exclusion", L'Heure de vérité, Antenne 2, 6 May 1987 (QuickTime video, French), Retrieved 19 October 2008
  13. "SIDA" = Syndrome d'Immuno-Déficience Acquise, the French name for AIDS
  14. Nicolas Domenach and Maurice Szafran, Le Roman d'un President, Pion: 1997, ISBN 2259181880
  15. Douglas Johnson, "Ancient and Modern", The Spectator, 15 March 1997, Retrieved 19 October 2008
  16. L'Humanit√© - Libres √Čchanges retrieved 30 May 2008
  17. Far-Right Le Pen's Slurs Fail to Upset France's Quest For Glory Deutsche Welle, 29 June 2006
  18. Le Pen rides to Sarkozy's rescue? | Certain ideas of Europe |
  19. "Le Pen Convicted for Racial Hatred", Associated Press, 1999-06-02. Retrieved 2008-10-18
  20. Julian Nundy, "One-year election ban for Le Pen", The Scotsman, 18 November 1998, Retrieved 18 October 2008
  21. L'affaire du poignard du lieutenant Le Pen en Algérie, Le Monde, 17 March 2003
  22. Le Pen et la torture, l'enquete du "Monde" validée par le tribunal, Le Monde, 28 June 2003
  23. "J'ai croisé Le Pen à la villa Sésini" (I crossed Le Pen in the Sesini Villa), interview with Paul Aussaresses (whom had argued in favor of the use of torture in Algeria), Le Monde, 4 June 2002
  24. "Un lourd silence", Le Monde, 5 May 2002
  25. "Quand Le Pen travaillait 20 heures par jour" in L'Humanité (freely accessible), 2 May 2002
  26. "New Revelations on Le Pen, tortionary" in L'Humanité, 4 June 2002
  27. "Le Pen attaque un élu du PCF en justice", in L'Humanité, 4 April 1995
  28. Jean Dufour: "Le Pen vient d'être débouté", in L'Humanité, 26 June 1995
  29. "Torture: Le Pen perd son procès en diffamation contre Le Monde", in L'Humanité, 27 June 2003
  30. René Monzat, Enquêtes sur la droite extrême, 1992 [1].
  31. Bruce Crumley in Time International magazine, (2002-06-05) writes: "Denunciations of Jean-Marie Le Pen and his xenophobic National Front (FN) as racist, anti-Semitic and hostile to minorities and foreigners aren't exactly new. More novel, however, are such condemnations coming from far-right movements like the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), which itself won international opprobrium in 1999 after entering government on a populist platform similar to Le Pen's."
  32. Le Canard Encha√ģn√©, 2005-03-09

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