In April 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen stunned all of Europe by defeating the socialist candidate, Lionel Jospin, in the first round of the French presidential election, and advancing to the final round between the top two candidates. Terrified by the prospect of a far-right victory, the French left – including communists, Greens and the Socialist party – threw their support behind the incumbent president, Jacques Chirac, a pillar of the centre-right establishment who had served as mayor of Paris for 18 years before becoming president in 1995. This electoral strategy effectively isolated Le Pen’s Front National (FN), depicting it as a cancerous force in the French body politic. Two weeks later, on 5 May, Chirac won the election with an astronomical 82% of the vote, trouncing Le Pen by the biggest margin in a French presidential election since 1848. Raucous celebrations spilled into the streets of Paris. “We have gone through a time of serious anxiety for the country – but tonight France has reaffirmed its attachment to the values of the republic,” Chirac declared in his victory speech. Then, speaking to the joyous crowds in the Place de la République, he lauded them for rejecting “intolerance and demagoguery”. But… Read full this story
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