Sunday, 13 March 2011
The French establishment is desperately trying to fend off the challenge of Marine Le Pen's Front National (FN) which, thanks to its growth in popularity, now threatens to enter the French political mainstream.

Sarkozy is warning that UMP politicians who call for alliances or pacts with the FN will be expelled from the party. At the same time, he is trying to steal some of the FN's thunder by broaching the Islam question himself. But this is provoking discontent in his own party by those opposed to such "populist" gestures. This week Sarkozy's diversity adviser, a Muslim, was sacked after expressing opposition to the plans to hold a national debate on secularism (really on Islam). The Muslim said Sarkozy had wanted the debate to defend Muslims but that it had been hijacked by "neo-Nazis" within the UMP. Muslims are reported to have been tearing up their UMP membership cards and are calling for a demonstration in front of the UMP headquarters on 5 April, the day on which the debate on secularism is scheduled to begin.

Trade unions are also fighting to fend off the growing popularity of the FN among their membership. Members and officers of the trade unions are being expelled for standing as FN candidates.

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