Le Pen compares Sarkozy to Nazis

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.

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.