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Merkel and Sarkozy rattled by election losses

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The French vote was round 2 for some 100 districts, and Sarkozy’s UMP party was routed, in some regions losing half its traditional totals, while the National Front in some places scored 40 percent.

Ms. Le Pen, tall and telegenic, has taken control and is altering the image of Europe’s premier far-right party founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, historically known as anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant. She is moving to institutionalize the National Front in the mind of French voters by abandoning the old screeds against Jews, and including gays, while at the same time picking up on a general mainstream worry about Muslims.

“Marine Le Pen is beginning to transform the National Front from a protest party into a political alternative,” argued Stéphane Rozès at the French graduate school Sciences Po on Monday.

Earlier in the month as refugees from upheavals in North Africa landed at Italy’s Lampedusa Island in the Mediterranean, the new Le Pen made a high-profile visit, meeting refugees, noting that no other political figures bothered to visit them in their hour of need.

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