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LE PEN

Le Pen compares Sarkozy to Nazis

French far-right champion Jean-Marie Le Pen put his party's rebranding campaign at risk, with an off-colour joke about Nicolas Sarkozy having the same initials as the National Socialist Party.

Le Pen compares Sarkozy to Nazis

In remarks filmed on Tuesday night that appeared on the Internet Thursday, Le Pen joked that left-leaning “bourgeois bohemians” wear beards because it is a “Muslim style”, then added: “They ride bikes, like NS.”

“NS is National Socialism. Oh, I’m sorry, it’s just that when I saw that rally in the square on Sunday it made me think of Nuremberg, with NS,” he said, referring to a Sarkozy campaign event in Place de la Concorde.

The French president is an enthusiastic cyclist.

Le Pen’s daughter, Marine Le Pen, took charge of his National Front party last year, and embarked on a campaign to de-toxify its image, tainted over the years by her now 83-year-old father’s penchant for provocative outbursts.

Le Pen junior is now the Front’s presidential candidate in Sunday’s first round vote, up against Sarkozy and Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, but her predecessor is still an influential figure in the movement.

She is expect to win between 13 and 16 percent, but is a long way from repeating her father’s 2002 feat of qualifying for the second round.

The run-off is to take place on May 6, and opinion polls forecast that  Hollande will beat Sarkozy.

LE PEN

France’s far-right patriarch refused questioning in EU fraud case

Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France's far-right National Front party, refused to submit to police questioning last month as part of an EU funding inquiry, claiming immunity as a European Parliament lawmaker, his adviser said Sunday.

France's far-right patriarch refused questioning in EU fraud case
Photos:AFP

Le Pen is one of several party MEPs suspected of using European Parliament funds provided for assistants to pay more than 20 France-based party staff.

If convicted, the party could be ordered to repay €7 million ($8.2 million), and the judges pre-emptively seized the subsidies.

An EU tribunal has already determined that Le Pen must reimburse €320,000.

But when police from France's anti-corruption squad tried to question him last month at his office just outside Paris, he claimed MEP immunity and ordered them to leave.

“He was prepared to receive them, but they had such arrogant attitudes which Jean-Marie Le Pen refused to accept,” his adviser Lorrain de Saint Affrique told AFP, confirming a report in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Le Pen, 90, sits as an independent after being thrown out of his party by his daughter Marine Le Pen in 2015 for saying the Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of history.

He has also often made disparaging statements against Muslims and Roma which have earned him a string of hate speech convictions.

His daughter has renamed the party the National Rally in an effort to shed its xenophobic and anti-Semitic image.

The EU funding inquiry has led French judges to withhold €2 million of public subsidies for the party, a move which Marine Le Pen has denounced as a “death sentence”.

Without the funds, she warns the party will be bankrupt by September.

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