- Title: FRANCE: France's nationalist leader Le Pen sets out election campaign
- Date: 26th February 2007
- Summary: (W4) LILLE, FRANCE (FEBRUARY 24, 2007) (REUTERS) WIDE OF CONFERENCE ROOM
- Embargoed: 13th March 2007 12:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA8BIVXDWY9WU5W66E82FHNL2AF
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Le Pen, who stunned France by coming second to Jacques Chirac in the previous election five years ago, told a rally in Lille on Sunday (February 24) he would impose strict immigration controls and pay for social projects by cutting off welfare to foreigners.
He also sought to tap public concerns about the environment and global warming and proposed a Marshall Plan for the countryside echoing reconstruction plans after World War Two.
He reiterated criticism of the European Union (EU) and globalisation and he denounced global financial speculators as "sharks" in bed with Russian and French oligarchs.
"I said to Mrs Royal and Mr Sarkozy that it is a presidential election and not the election of a European governor of the region of France," he said.
"The difference between the candidate Le Pen and the others is that they practice the massage and I practice the message. They say relax and I say wake up," the National Front party leader told flag-waving supporters.
In remarks designed to capitalise on growing popular distrust of the political elite, Le Pen addressed his policies to the "low ranks, farmers, pensioners, widows, street kids".
Le Pen is doing better in the race for the April-May presidential election than he was before the 2002 poll.
But he is far behind the leading candidates, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Segolene Royal.
He also trails centrist Francois Bayrou, the alternative candidate who has seen the biggest surge in his ratings.
A poll for Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche suggested 11.5 percent of voters planned to vote for Le Pen in the first stage of the two-round election, lagging Bayrou on 17 percent and Royal and Sarkozy who are both on 28 percent.
Le Pen faced flag-waving supporters with his daughter Marine, who has given the 78-year-old National Front leader a softer image to try to appeal to new voters.
By organising his rally in the northern town of Lille, where he won most votes in 2002, Le Pen hopes to remind media and his rivals in main parties how wrong they were last time.
Sarkozy has moved into Le Pen's traditional law-and-order territory and voters' worries have shifted to jobs and purchasing power, neither of them strong points for Le Pen.
Le Pen reeled off a list of things that were wrong with France from the economy to the role of families and promised a "parental wage" for people bringing up the next generation.
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