Far-right Rassemblement National candidates, including one wearing Nazi hat, under scrutiny in French election


PARIS (AP) — Now that France’s far-right National Rally party has come under scrutiny for some of the candidates it hopes will secure a majority for the party in parliamentary elections on Sunday, including a woman it has now removed from office. the high stakes race above a photo of her wearing a Nazi officer’s cap from World War II.

Other Rassemblement National candidates whose eligibility has been questioned by critics and opponents of the party include a woman who French media say once held a municipal worker at gunpoint, a man who may not be eligible to serve as a lawmaker because he is under guardianship, a candidate in Brittany who wrote on Twitter that “gas brought justice to the victims of the Shoah” and others who have faced questions about their absences from the campaign trail.

When French media and citizens research candidates’ backgrounds online, there is a risk that their identities will be exposed. the polished image the leader of the National Rally and three-time presidential candidate Marine Le-Pen has tried to shape her party to shed its historical ties to anti-Semitism, racism and France’s painful collaboration with the Nazi occupation during World War II.

It has also raised questions about the party’s willingness to seize power if it obtains an absolute majority in Sunday’s second round of voting to determine the composition of the 577-seat National Assembly, which would give Le Pen the power to force President Emmanuel Macron to accept her 28-year-old protégé, Jordan Bardellaas prime minister. According to French political analysts, the party’s electoral machinery is struggling to keep pace with the growing support of voters, including finding and screening candidates to represent the party.

This flash campaign proved particularly difficult for all parties, with only three weeks of preparation time. Macron the surprise legislative elections called on June 9, after his centrist alliance suffered a heavy defeat to the Rassemblement National in the French European Parliament elections.

“They tend to grab what they have at hand, even if that means not paying attention,” said far-right expert Jean-Yves Camus, a researcher at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations.

“There’s the top of the basket, but there’s also the bottom of the basket, with candidates who are often embarrassing to them.”

In Mayenne, in northwestern France, citizens dug up and shared a newspaper clipping from the regional newspaper Ouest-France in 1995. It reported that Rassemblement National candidate Annie Bell, then using the surname Jaccoud, had held a mayoral employee hostage for hours. The newspaper reported that she was heavily in debt, entered her town hall armed with a rifle and took a secretary hostage. A shot was fired, but no one was injured, the newspaper reported. Bell advanced from the first round of voting last Sunday to the decisive second round this coming weekend.

The clipping, shared online, was picked up by several media outlets, including Ouest-France. It is unclear whether she was ever convicted, and the Associated Press could not find her contact information. A spokesman for the party did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP.

Party vice-president Louis Aliot said on Wednesday that it was an isolated case and that he was not aware of all their backgrounds because the party had put forward hundreds of candidates.

“This is one of the few strange things that can exist between all the candidates,” he said on France Info radio.

But other candidates are also under fire.

After Ludivine Daoudi won almost 20% of the vote in her district in the first round, Rassemblement National announced on Tuesday that she would withdraw from the second round after a photo of her wearing a Nazi officer’s cap with a swastika surfaced on social media.

“She doesn’t deny that she took this photo,” Philippe Chapron, a regional representative of the National Rally, said in a radio interview. He stressed that the photo, “clearly in bad taste,” was taken “a long time ago” and before Daoudi joined the party.

Candidates from other parties have also come under fire. A campaign video shared on social media by Sebastien Delogu, a lawmaker for the far-left France Unbowed party who was re-elected in the first round, showed the head of Jewish lawmaker Habib Meyer standing next to a box of frozen pizzas and an oven. Meyer said he considered the video anti-Semitic. Delogu denied that charge. The National Rally and France Unbowed have made accusations of anti-Semitism in the campaign.

Another candidate of the National Rally in Mayenne, Paule Veyre de Soras, was asked in a video interview about the accusations of critics that the party still has xenophobes and racists in its ranks. She replied that this is no longer the case, adding: “I am Catalan myself, my grandfather was born in Barcelona, ​​​​I have a Jewish ophthalmologist and, as a dentist, a Muslim.”

Veyre de Soras received more than 28% of the votes in her district, giving her a chance to become a legislator in the second round.

In some districts, National Rally candidates have not included a photo of themselves or biographical information on campaign leaflets, which only feature Le Pen and Bardella. Some National Rally candidates have been seen so rarely on the campaign trail that their opponents have compared them to ghosts.

In the Jura region, National Rally candidate Thierry Mosca is subject to court-ordered limited guardianship, regional newspaper Le Progrès reported, meaning he would not be eligible to be a lawmaker if elected. French broadcaster France 3 quoted Mosca as saying the protection measure, which a judge can order for adults deemed to be in difficulty and in need of help, was applied to him because he has financial problems.

Aliot said of the situation that some candidates do not tell the party about their legal records, “even though we ask them.”

“If they lied, they will be fired.”

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