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French Jews Warn Candidates Against Pandering for Far Right-wing Votes

April 26, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

French Jews urged the two leading presidential candidates Monday not to pander to the far right-wing National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen, which made an unexpectedly strong showing in the first round of France’s presidential elections Sunday.

CRIF, the Representative Council of Major French Jewish Organizations, expressed its “deep concern” over the size of Le Pen’s vote. He scored 14.41 percent, surprising most pollsters and political analysts.

CRIF called on incumbent President Francois Mitterrand and his rival for the presidency, Premier Jacques Chirac, to offer no concessions to the National Front or the people who voted for it.

Mitterrand, 71, leader of the Socialist Party, and Chirac, 56, of the center-right neo-Gaullist Rally for the Republic, will face each other in a run-off election on May 8.

Mitterrand won 34.1 percent of the vote Sunday to 19.9 percent for Chirac. CRIF’s warning, therefore, was addressed mainly to Chirac, who would need Le Pen’s 4.5 million voters if he is to unseat Mitterrand.

Mitterrand can count next month on the votes of the Communists and other leftist parties. Chirac, and the other center-right candidate, Raymond Barre, mustered a combined vote of 36.45 percent Sunday. Chirac, therefore, is mathematically excluded from winning the presidency, unless he can tap the far right.

Chirac until now has refused to negotiate with Le Pen or even meet him. But many observers believe he may be forced to make some sort of concession to the far right.

Le Pen ran a chauvinist campaign, appealing to xenophobia. His main target was aliens in France, particularly Arabs from North Africa

He has insisted he is not anti-Semitic. But Jews and liberals recall his Radio Luxembourg interview last September in which he dismissed the Holocaust as a “minor point” in history.

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