NEWS - Archive April 2012

Headlines 27 April, 2012

VIENNA IN ROW OVER LEGACY OF HISTORIC ANTISEMITIC MAYOR KARL LUEGER (Austria)

Plan to change street signs bearing name of anti-Jewish leader who inspired Hitler causes far right complaints

27/4/2012- For the young Adolf Hitler, he was an inspiration, the greatest "German" city mayor ever. For the Austrian fascists who won a civil war in Vienna in the 1930s, he was a hero. Karl Lueger, the politician who presided over the city's fin-de-siècle golden era of Gustav Mahler, Gustav Klimt and Sigmund Freud and brought gas and fresh water to the imperial capital, is a Vienna legend. He was also a vicious antisemite. There are at least a dozen spots in Vienna bearing Lueger's name. A towering oak outside city hall, a church in Vienna's main cemetery. A statue of a determined, ambitious Lueger dominates a city centre square named after him. But now, 78 years after a portion of the main belt of boulevards that encircles the city centre was named the Karl Lueger Ring, the streets signs are getting a makeover. Last week the coalition of social democrats and Greens running the Austrian capital decided to rename the 600-metre stretch of the Ringstrasse bearing Lueger's name, triggering a row about whitewashing history, political correctness, and Vienna's often difficult attempts to deal with a troubled past.

"It's a scandal," the leader of the populist far-right Freedom party, Heinz-Christian Strache, told Austrian TV. "The socialists in Vienna are building a memorial to a foreign mass murderer, Che Guevara, but an outstanding mayor of Vienna is being wiped from the street names." Lueger, who ran Vienna from 1897 until his death in 1910, was a formidable and divisive figure in the years leading up to the first world war and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire in a city that was a fulcrum of Jewish life and culture in Europe. The prototype of rightwing Austrian populism still strong today (Strache's party is running at second place in the national opinion polls), Lueger described Vienna as "a big Jerusalem" and the Jews as "God murderers". Hitler, who spent part of his youth in Lueger's Vienna before the first world war, extolled the city boss in Mein Kampf as "the greatest German mayor of all times". In her definitive study of the early 20th century city, Hitler's Vienna, the historian Brigitte Hamann said Lueger "brutalised" the city through his anti-Jewish rabble-rousing.

In other regards, Lueger's legacy survives to this day, with the energy and water supply networks and public transport systems he oversaw providing the basis for contemporary Viennese services. This legacy is acknowledged by his critics who nonetheless are pleased that the city government has taken the symbolic step of stripping Lueger from Vienna's most prestigious 19th-century boulevard, home to the national parliament, city hall, opera house, theatres, national museums and galleries, and university. "Lueger's legacy lives on in Vienna 100 years later," wrote the columnist Hans Rauscher. "And so does his evil legacy – racism, demagoguery, xenophobia and the antisemitism that was his central political message. He gave the Viennese clean, fresh water. He also gave them the poison potion of a policy of hatred." The heads of the University of Vienna, embarrassed that the institution sits on the street bearing Lueger's name, have been campaigning for years for the revision. From October the boulevard will be known as University Ring rather than Karl Lueger Ring. A few hundred metres away, a large statue of the mayor dubbed the founder of modern antisemitism still stands proudly. The city government said there were no plans to make any other changes.
© The Guardian

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THE FAR-RIGHT RISES IN HARD-HIT GREECE

Golden Dawn, a secretive party whose anti-foreigner message has tapped into Greeks' anger and fear, is set to enter parliament for the first time

27/4/2012- In the port of Piraeus, dozens of young men with shaved heads and black T-shirts packed a small room one evening to hear Golden Dawn's dream of a Greece purged of foreigners, its borders sealed with landmines. "We want all illegal immigrants out, we want to take their stench out of this place," said Frangiscos Porihis, an election candidate for the ultranationalist and highly secretive party. "They shouldn't be here and they will leave one way or the other - the good or the bad way," he told the Piraeus meeting. With Greece deep in economic and social crisis, the party is promising voters in next month's elections to start by expelling illegal immigrants - before moving on to the legal ones. Nevertheless, Golden Dawn denies it is neo-Nazi, although its leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos did introduce himself to Athens city council last year with a Nazi salute. With its anti-foreigner message plus handouts for a few of Greece's many needy, Golden Dawn has emerged from obscurity in the last few months and now seems certain to enter parliament comfortably when the nation votes on May 6.

Flanked by bookshelves lined with books on Aryan supremacy and nationalism, the Piraeus audience listened in rapt attention. Leaflets declaring "Not a single unemployed Greek, not a single illegal immigrant in Greece" lay on tables, alongside manifestos proclaiming "Greece belongs to Greeks." Outside, the group's flag - with an ancient Greek symbol that resembles the swastika set against a red background - fluttered in Piraeus, 10 kilometres south of central Athens. Opinion polls suggest that Golden Dawn could win around five per cent of the vote, comfortably above the three per cent threshold for entering parliament. This would be a staggering feat for a party considered until now by many Greeks as little more than a rabble-rousing fringe group that took 0.23 per cent in the last general election three years ago. Linked to racist, anti-immigrant attacks, Golden Dawn is set to become the most extreme right-wing party to sit in parliament since Greece returned to democracy after the fall of a military dictatorship in 1974.

Golden Dawn's rhetoric resonates with Greeks who blame rising crime on the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants flocking to the country's porous borders. Nine out of 10 illegal immigrants entering the European Union in 2010 arrived in Greece, largely from Turkey by land or sea. Last year Italy took the top spot due to a jump in arrivals of people fleeing the Arab Spring upheaval. Nevertheless, Greece has more than one million immigrants, legal and illegal, in a country of 11 million people. West African hawkers are a common sight on the streets of Athens, playing a game of cat-and-mouse with the police. However, many are also from Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa, hoping to make their way to more prosperous EU countries to the north where work is available. The party's community-based efforts and anti-politician talk have also won fans among Greeks bristling with anger at an entire political class that they see as corrupt and self-serving, analysts say.

With repeated waves of wage and pension cuts to save the country from bankruptcy, Greece has sunk into its deepest recession since the Second World War. "It's not that Greeks became right-wing overnight," said Thomas Gerakis, head of the Marc pollster group. "They just want to send a message to the political system as a whole." Golden Dawn's candidates are not career politicians; they include farmers, shepherds, workers and retired army officers. The party has no recognizable names apart from its leader Mihaloliakos, who served in the Greek special forces and was elected to the Athens city council in 2010 - giving the Nazi salute on his first appearance there last year. "Golden Dawn has the advantage of being invisible," said a political analyst, who declined to be named. "Apart from Mihaloliakos, even I don't know any of the other faces in the party and I'm in the business. That works as a protective shield for them." Polls show the party taking between 4.1 and 5.7 per cent next month. Much of that has come at the expense of the nationalist LAOS party, whose ratings plummeted after it joined the outgoing coalition government last year. It later quit after refusing to accept the austerity conditions of Greece's latest bailout.

In working class neighbourhoods of Athens, Golden Dawn has been quietly building itself up as a friendly, reliable face among hardhit Greeks that the state has failed to help. For over a year, party members have given needy families bags of rice and pasta, olive oil and clothes in cartons labelled: "I vote for Golden Dawn to clean up the place" and "For Athens to become Greek again." Former Socialist voter Katerina Karousi, a 76-year-old cancer patient, broke down in sobs when party members showed up at her doorstep with large bags of food on a Friday morning. "I hear they are doing nice things for people. Why not vote for them?" said her husband, 79-year-old Andreas Karoussis. On their way out, a Golden Dawn member bade the couple farewell with: "Call us if you need anything - I mean anything."

At another stop, 41-year-old Constantina Tassiou looked bewildered and overwhelmed as Golden Dawn members piled clothes and supermarket bags at her doorstep. "It's the first time someone has brought us clothes and food. Only the church has helped us so far," said Tassiou, who has epilepsy and whose family lives on her welfare benefits. "I'll vote for Golden Dawn, maybe it's time for something new." Elsewhere, Golden Dawn escorts the elderly who are wary of immigrants to bank ATMs, said spokesman Elias Panagiotaros. Golden Dawn's manifesto is less benevolent than the good-neighbour image its food drive has helped to cultivate. Illegal immigrants must be immediately arrested and deported, and legal immigrants eventually expelled as well, the group says. It wants crimes committed by immigrants to fall under a special category, with their sentences carried out in special detention centres where the immigrants are put to work. "There are people who have been living in a building for 40 to 50 years and they suddenly realize that it's only them and maybe another family and that the rest are thirdworld foreigners who live in groups of 30 to 40 in one apartment," said Panagiotaros.

The group has little sympathy for the political class. Politicians behind Greece's crisis must be hauled before a special court, jailed and their property seized, the group says, while any Greek refusing to join the conscript army will be stripped of their citizenship and exiled. Despite the comparisons with neo-Nazism, Golden Dawn has paradoxically tapped into anti-German sentiment by attacking the bailout package from the EU and International Monetary Fund and what it calls German domination of Europe. Set up in 1992 and relaunched in 2007, the party admires Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas, who refused to surrender to the Axis powers in 1940. It calls itself nationalist and insists its logo is the ancient Greek Meander symbolizing bravery and endless struggle. The group remains enigmatic. Its leader Mihaloliakos declined to be interviewed and ruled out in a campaign speech this week any co-operation to forge a coalition government. "We will never, ever make a deal with the powers of the bailout. A war to the end! We will win our homeland back!" he told cheering supporters.

Members say discipline and years of unwavering dedication are required to win acceptance. One said it can take up to three years to become a member - starting first as a supporter, then as trial-members before joining the "family". "For the Communists we are Nazis, for the Socialists we are fascists and for the conservatives we are extreme right," said Nas, a Golden Dawn member who declined to give his last name. "Let them call me what they want. I do what I do with honour."

Dozens of parties to contest Greek election
A total of 32 parties will field candidates in the May 6 Greek general election, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, a major break with the past when political life was dominated by two parties. Both the conservatives and the socialists, who have alternated in power in the last three decades, have lost support to left-wing and splinter parties, many of which oppose an austerity drive brought on by Greece's near-bankruptcy. The court denied registration by four small parties on technical grounds, and said one party, "Tyranoktonoi" (The Tyrannicides) must change its name. The election is expected to deliver a coalition government, similar to that led by outgoing caretaker Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. Opinion polls suggest however that up to 10 parties might win more than the three per cent voter threshold needed to win parliamentary representation.

In addition to the two main parties - the conservative New Democracy and the Socialist Pasok - three more parties that already have representation in parliament are likely to win seats. These are the Communists (KKEP), the radical left Syriza and the extreme-right Laos parties. Other parties are mostly new, including the neo-Nazi Chyrssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) and the "Independent Greeks," set up in March, which rejects the financial rescue agreed with European Union partners and the International Monetary Fund. Other parties include the anti-austerity "Social Pact" led by dissident Pasok member Louka Katseli, the "Antarsya" (left anti-capitalist) party, and the "I won't pay" party that emerged from a civil disobedience movement which sprang up in 2010.
© The Ottawa Citizen.

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REDEFINING RACISM: ROMANIAN DICTIONARY CORRECTS ANTI-SEMITIC AND ANTI-ROMA WORDS

26/4/2012- The Romanian Academy has corrected the definitions of anti-Semitic and racist words in the latest edition of a widely-circulated dictionary, after protests from Jewish and Roma groups. “The definitions of 30 words related to the Roma have been revised in the latest edition of the DEX dictionary,” Roma rights group Impreuna said Thursday. The dictionary now stresses that several words derived from “Tsigan” (gypsy or Roma) are “pejorative.” The previous editions had “promoted discriminatory identifications and racist stereotypes without mentioning their disparaging meaning,” the rights group stressed. “The revised edition is a step towards normality and correctness,” it added. The Academy has also corrected the definition of “jidan”, stressing that it is an “offending and racist term regarding a Jew”. This word was merely defined as a “familiar” synonym for Jew in the previous edition. The Centre for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romanian (MCA) last year denounced this “shameful” definition as “an expression of racism in its purest form.” The Romanian Anti-Discrimination Council also called on the Romanian Academy to correct the “racist and disparaging” definitions in the DEX.
© AFP

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26/4/2012- The head of the People's Party "Our Slovakia" (Lidová strana Naše Slovensko - LSNS), Marián Kotleba, who is notorious for making controversial statements, has now carried out the threats he made to authorities after Krásná Hôrka castle caught fire earlier this year. News server Tvnoviny.sk reports that Kotleba has succeeded in acquiring the land on which the Romani settlement in the village of Krásnohorské Podhradie is located. The settlement is not far from the castle, which is a landmark. Kotleba has acquired an 800 square meter lot on which three or four illegally constructed dwellings now stand. As of yesterday, he can make use of the land. The previous owner, a village resident, has agreed to transfer it to him. Slovak media are reporting that Kotleba wants to destroy the illegal constructions erected on the land by settlement residents. He has been planning this ever since 10 March when the castle caught fire, allegedly because two Romani children were trying to light cigarettes.

Miroslav Bělička, Kotleba's party colleague, confirmed to Tvnovinky.cz that the ownership has been transferred. Bělička said they would be taking all of the necessary steps to officially register the land. The settlement located on the land is said to be illegal. Bělička has refused to describe what is planned for the land until the title is fully transferred. Local Romani residents fear the worst. Mayor Peter Boll insists that prior to the fire, village residents never had any problems with the Romani settlement and says that crime in the area was minimal. He is also concerned there will be problems because of Kotleba, who made a failed attempt to get into parliament earlier this year. Boll says the village had no way of intervening against the transfer of ownership. Approximately 900 people live in the settlement. "It is unfortunate that Kotleba is making this effort to offer a solution instead of the municipality or the state doing so. That will make it the turn of the ultra-right with their populist solutions," said Irena Bihariová, head of the NGO People against Racism (Lidé proti rasismu). Experts have warned that clearing the land on which the illegal constructions stand will not solve local residents' problems.

Kotleba was previously the leader of Slovenská pospolitost (Slovak Solidarity), a Slovak right-wing extremist party later turned fascist association, which carries on the legacy of the WWII-era Slovak state, which was an ally of Nazi Germany. In the beginning the group formed as a political party, but the courts banned it. Slovak Solidarity members then registered as a civic association. In a report dated 12 November 2008, the Slovak Interior Ministry said it would be dissolving Slovak Solidarity because it was inciting national and racial hatred and intolerance, which violates the Slovak Constitution and laws. The group is notorious for holding marches "for the nation" and against Romani people. Its members use the fascist greeting "Na stráž" ("On guard") and wear suits reminiscent of the uniforms of the Hlinka Guard, the Slovak paramilitary organization that persecuted Jewish and Romani people from 1938 until 1945.
© Romea

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FEARS RACISM COULD BE A PROBLEM AT EURO 2012 TOURNAMENT (Poland/Ukraine)

It's one of the biggest sporting events of this year but there are fears it could be hit by racism and violence.

26/4/2012- Thousands of fans will be heading to Poland and Ukraine for the European Championship in June and July. Both host countries have a history of problems with hooligans, often linked to far right political groups including Neo-Nazis. Uefa says it is working hard to make sure the tournament is a success. Jacek Pulski works for the anti-racism group Never Again, which recently put together a report on the problem. He said: "Sometimes it's a racist flag, sometimes it's a racist slogan. Unfortunately this still happens in Polish and Ukrainian league matches."

Examples include:
A former Polish international who described the country's national team as "Colombian and German stray dogs". Racist slogans and swastikas painted on the door of a building where Nigerian and Zimbabwean players lived Anti-Semitic chanting, banners and marches at matches

Jacek says most people in Poland and Ukraine are excited about the tournament but said: "When we monitor internet forums linked to racist or hooligan groups, we see that there is an interest in showing up and showing the negative side of Polish football."

'Show them'
Eighteen-year-old Albert Bruce, who signed for Legia Warsaw in January from a team in Ghana, says he has had a warm welcome. "I've never come across any racism at the club or while travelling around. Everyone is very nice with me and I'm happy to be living here." Albert Arinze and Albert have different experiences of football in Poland. Arinze Nwolisa has played football in Poland's lower leagues. He says he's had a different experience. "When you are good, it is a challenge for them," said the 31-year-old, originally from Nigeria. "Before you enter the pitch, they will be calling you all sorts of names, like monkey. "When they call me those names, it makes me want to show them who I am."

Former Aston Villa and Chelsea defender Paul Elliott, an ambassador for the anti-racism group Kick it Out, wants Euro 2012 referees to stop matches if players are abused. "That's his job," he said. "He has a duty of care to those players. "The referee has the power to stop the game, speak to the stadium announcer, to do everything possible until the situation is resolved." Uefa says it will have people at every match of the tournament, monitoring to make sure there isn't any racist abuse inside or outside the stadiums. The monitors will file a report after every game and Uefa has the power to take disciplinary action against countries whose supporters misbehave.
© BBC News

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GOOGLE BACKS NETWORK OF FORMER TERRORISTS

Google has backed a project to link up former terrorists and former violent radicals online, in an effort to combat extremism worldwide.

25/4/2012- It is planned that more than a thousand reformed Islamic, far-right, far-left and other extremists will collaborate on counter-radicalisation via the new network, “Against Violent Extremism”. Victims of terrorism will also participate, including Jo Berry, the daughter of the Conservative MP Anthony Berry, who was killed in the IRA Brighton bombing in 1984. The hub of the network is a new website, allowing members to exchange ideas on fundraising, policy-making and research. Google is involved via its own think tank, Google Ideas, which is funding AVE for two years initially. The web giant has previously been criticised by politicians in Britain and the United States for hosting extremist propaganda on YouTube, its video sharing website, including as the sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior al-Qaeda cleric, who killed by a US drone strike last year. The criticism helped prompt a major clean-up effort last year. Google said it had removed 135 videos for “national security” reasons in response to government requests. 

Robert Orell, a former far-right extremist who now runs EXIT Sweden, an organisation countering neo-Nazi ideology, said private sector involvement would be helpful. “If you are trying to counter extremism but you are too close to the Government you are too close to what many extremist groups see as the enemy,” he said. “Large corporations can be seen as the enemy too, but not to the same extent.” In Britain, charities involved in the Government's 'Prevent' counter-terroism strategy were seen as tools of state surveillance by some Muslims. Sasha Havlicek, Director of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the London-based think-tank that will manage the online network, pledged it would not be “another talking shop”. “For instance, a youth worker could post a request for a thousand Euros in funding to pay the rent on their office for a few months and if a donor is interested they can connect through the website. Or a community group might be looking for help in organising a social media campaign, which could be picked up by a tech company in Silicon Valley.”

Mr Orell said that organisations fighting extremism had fallen behind in the battle of ideas online. Cases such as Anders Breivik, the far-right mass killer currently on trial in Norway, have showed how those with radical views are able to network and air their views unchallenged. “We definitely need to catch up,” said Mr Orell. Exremists are very efficient at networking online.” Tim Stevens, of the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London, said Google has been under pressure from both governments and private lobbies, such as Jewish groups, over extremism online. “On the face of it, this network looks like a good idea,” he said. “But Google will need to be careful about being drawn into such a highly-politicised area.”
© The Telegraph

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SIBERIAN LAWMAKERS PASS ANTI-'GAY PROPAGANDA' BILL (Russia)

26/4/2012- A Siberian regional legislature passed in the first reading on Thursday a bill banning promotion of homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender practices among minors and adopted it in its Administrative Offenses Code. “It’s mainly about various gay parades…about their promotion among minors. It’s about preventing people who are not related to homosexuality from explaining to their kids what is going on,” said Alexander Ilushchenko who oversees a regional committee on culture, education, sports and youth policy . The bill which stipulates that "gay propaganda" should be viewed as an administrative offense, will also be debated in a final second reading by the lawmakers in Russian Siberian city of Novosibirsk. A law penalizing “the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors”came into force in St. Petersburg on March 17, prompting mixed reactions among Russians where anti-gay sentiment remains strong. The U.S. State Department expressed its concern about the law which stipulates fines of up to $16,000 for individuals and up to $160,000 to organizations promoting homosexuality. Anti-gay laws have already been approved in several Russian regions including Ryazan Region, Kostroma Region, Arkhangelsk Region and the city of St. Petersburg.
© RIA Novosti

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GAY TEEN FORCIBLY TAKEN TO DRUG REHAB CLINIC RELEASED (Russia)

25/4/2012- A 16-year-old boy was released Wednesday night from a drug rehabilitation clinic where he had been taken after his father threw a fit over his announcing he was gay. Ivan Kharchenko was taken by his grandmother to a psychiatric clinic in the Moscow region on April 11, after Kharchenko's father learned he was gay, Novaya Gazeta reported. The boy fled the facility and returned home the next day. On April 13, Kharchenko's father took him to the Marshak Clinic, a drug rehabilitation center. At the rehab center, Kharchenko was barred from using the telephone and given pills that he said affected his memory. A doctor at the clinic told Kharchenko's mother that no traces of drugs were detected in his system. Television cameras gathered outside the clinic earlier this week, and State Duma deputy from the Just Russia party Ilya Ponomaryov said he was ready to help the boy, BBC Russian Service reported. Lawyer Violetta Volkova, who also represents a jailed member of punk band Pussy Riot, took on Kharchenko's case. The boy's friends complained to police that only people above the age of 18 could be held at the clinic. A clinic official showed journalists a document saying that Kharchenko was 19 years old, Novaya Gazeta reported. On Wednesday night, the clinic released Kharchenko into his mother's custody.
© The Moscow Times

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AS LE PEN SURGES, ANGST DEEPENS IN FRENCH SUBURB (France)

For France's immigrants, life just got worse.

25/4/2012- To a group of youths huddling by a fast-food shop west of Paris, the rise of far-right leader Marine Le Pen in France's presidential election comes as no surprise but as worrying confirmation of what they see as their growing isolation in French society. Le Pen's breakthrough in Sunday's first round brought her anti-immigrant National Front (FN) party its highest poll score to date, touching off a round of soul-searching as French elites sought to understand her appeal. But an explanation comes quickly to these sons and grandsons of North African immigrants, who say harping on Muslim symbols by both Le Pen and President Nicolas Sarkozy has put fear of foreigners into the hearts of many white French people. "Eighteen percent? I'm surprised she didn't score more," said Karim, a 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, on learning of Le Pen's score. "When you watch the campaign on TV and all they talk about is halal meat, Muslims and al Qaeda, it's no wonder she is on the rise."

Le Pen's program of cutting immigration by 90 percent and protecting France's identity against perceived encroachment by Muslims has met with growing support in Seine-Saint-Denis, the traditionally pro-Left district where Karim and his friends were raised - despite the fact she never came here to campaign. Seine-Saint-Denis, with a population of 1.5 million, covers the sprawling northwestern suburbs of Paris and is home to the highest concentration of people of immigrant origin in the country. French law bars compiling statistics by ethnic origin, but census figures show more than one in five residents was born abroad. National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine's father, got 9 percent there in France's 2007 election. She boosted that to 13.6 percent, still well below her national score, but nonetheless resonating with the area's sizeable white community. Industrial decline has quickened, raising the local unemployment rate to 17 percent and threatening to close the biggest local private sector employer, the nearby Peugeot Citroen PSA.PA auto plant.

Youths like Karim, who was laid off from his job as a garage worker in February, said the economic crisis had given employers an excuse to reject foreign-looking workers for reasons he suspected had more to do with race than business. "When I go and look for work, they tell me - 'don't you watch TV? There's a crisis going on', he said. "But then I wonder, how come the white French people get long-term contracts? There are little Le Pens everywhere." The police also felt empowered to behave more roughly with frequent identity checks and random searches on youths of Arab and African appearance, Karim said. He said he had been stopped, slapped and kicked in a doorway by police this week. It was not possible to verify his account independently. Like all the young people questioned for this report, Karim declined to give his family name. Soft drugs were changing hands among some of the youths as he spoke.

Le Pen proposes reserving job vacancies, welfare benefits and public housing for French nationals. Asked about her contention that foreigners are abusing France's welfare system, Karim said: "I don't get anything." Sofiane, a 21-year-old apprentice taxi driver, said voters had been conditioned by the media and a divisive presidential campaign to make immigrants and their descendants a scapegoat for their own problems. "Those people who vote FN are just like us, in this misery, with the same rain and crap jobs. We are all in the same boat, so why blame us? It's stupidity," he said, smoking under an awning on the commercial strip flanked by apartment blocks. Of all the young people interviewed for this report, only one said he had voted in Sunday's election.

"No fisherman here"
Some of the youths in track suits and baseball caps reacted to the mention of Le Pen's name with a burst of expletives - inviting her to "come around here and see how we'd welcome her" - but not all rejected her platform wholesale. One aspect that appeared to garner support was her proposal to pull France out of the euro currency, reinstate national border controls and break out of free trade treaties she says have contributed to the flight of French industry. "The euro is clearly a disaster," said Sidi, 32, who had held jobs in banking and works at an employment agency. "It's made life more expensive to the point where you can't afford to have any vices, and I more or less agree with what she says about needing borders." At that moment, a stranger approached the group hawking a gold watch in one hand, and in the other, a fishing rod. "See?" said Sidi, to a burst of laughter from his friends, adding: "No fishermen here, buddy!"

Jean-Pierre, 45, the French son of an Algerian soldier who fought on the French side during the Algerian war of independence, said Le Pen was right to demand tighter border controls because there were no jobs to give to new immigrants. But Jean-Pierre and others in Aulnay said the bottom line about Le Pen was that she was fanning racism against foreign-looking people, especially French citizens of North African origin, by describing France's 5-million-strong Muslim population as problematic. "I am a Muslim, and I'm French, and I cannot accept someone telling me that this or that custom is not acceptable," said Jean-Pierre, who owns a car-cleaning business, and said he voted for Sarkozy. "Does she forget that France was in Algeria for 132 years?" Samir, a 29-year-old panel beater of Moroccan origin who said he had been laid off at the Peugeot plant, said Le Pen's anti-immigrant stance was hypocritical. "Our parents came here on big boats during the 1960s to build France," he said. "How about thanks?"
© Reuters

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FRANCE'S SARKOZY RULES OUT DEAL WITH FAR RIGHT

French President Nicolas Sarkozy ruled out any alliance with the far-right National Front of Marine Le Pen, backed by one in five voters in the first round of the presidential election, that would give it cabinet jobs or seats in parliament.

25/4/2012- An opinion poll this week showed two-thirds of Sarkozy supporters want his conservative UMP party to break with past policy and strike a deal with the Front after Le Pen's 17.9 percent score on Sunday made her 6.4 million backers key to the May 6 presidential election runoff. "There will be no pact with the National Front," Sarkozy told France Info radio on Wednesday, saying the parties disagreed on too many issues to imagine far-right ministers in government. Trailing Socialist Francois Hollande by 8-10 points in voting intentions for the runoff, Sarkozy used a campaign rally in the eastern Alsace region, a right-wing stronghold, to appeal to National Front voters citing the values of "the France that works", family, Christianity and patriotism. He also said he would call a referendum if re-elected to adopt a balanced budget rule if the Socialist-led Senate refused to ratify a European treaty on fiscal discipline, which Hollande has vowed to renegotiate to add measures to promote growth.

Winning over Le Pen voters is the chief headache for Sarkozy and Hollande, with parliamentary elections looming in June in which the far-right hopes to upset the mainstream and win seats. Sarkozy, the first sitting president to lose the first round of a re-election vote, is being punished for economic malaise, nearly 10 percent unemployment and a brash personal style. With only 10 days to turn public opinion in his favor, he vowed to further toughen a crackdown on immigration and combat industrial off shoring in response to the Le Pen vote. His government also said it would oppose any increase in the European Union budget after the executive European Commission proposed a 6.3 percent rise next year. The centre-left Hollande promised to fight factory layoffs.

Sarkozy sought to differentiate between Le Pen, who advocates France abandoning the euro currency and closing its borders to some imports, and her electors. "There will be no National Front ministers, but I refuse to demonize men and women who in voting for Marine Le Pen cast a crisis vote, a vote of anger, a vote of suffering and a vote of despair," he said. "I have to listen to their message and take them into account, and not think it's time to hold my nose."

Eyes on parliament vote
The National Front has barely been in parliament since 1988, when a change in the voting system ended its 35-seat bloc. It briefly won a single seat in 1997. Le Pen is now determined to break through with several seats in June. Based on Sunday's vote, the party could reach the second-round in up to 345 constituencies in which more than 12.5 percent of registered voters voted for Le Pen. That is more than half the lower chamber's 577 seats and could decimate the UMP by splitting the right-wing vote. National Front Vice-President Louis Alliot urged Sarkozy to clarify what recommendation he would give UMP voters in the parliamentary election if there were a runoff between the Socialist Party and the far right. Former sports minister Chantal Jouanno, a UMP senator, sparked anger among party leaders on Tuesday when she said she would vote Socialist in such a case. Interior Minister Claude Gueant also said he could not vote National Front.

Hollande told France 2 television he would not make concessions to the far right but he did want to show he had understood voters' fear and anger about factory closures. The Socialist said if elected, he would try to prevent a series of industrial layoffs which he said were being deliberately held back until after the election. "I hear the anger. I see the workers who are wondering about the future of their jobs, who are fighting against outsourcing, who do not accept the redundancy plans, who express their anger by voting for Marine Le Pen," Hollande said. "Regarding redundancy plans, I want us to have measures that can protect and reinforce our industry," he said, without going into detail. "I will not allow this string of closures, that has been put off until after the election, to take place." Hollande's ex-partner Segolene Royal, the losing Socialist Party candidate in the 2007 election, told Le Monde that Hollande should answer Le Pen voters by offering job security, financial reforms and protection against "savage globalization".

Sarkozy made his own gesture to factory workers by saying it was important to realize the impact of the financial crisis was much harsher for them than those in secure civil servant jobs. Sarkozy and Hollande battled for the blue-collar worker vote in their election campaign, but opinion polls show many in that group flocked instead to either the far right or hard left.
© Reuters

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