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By Andrei Zolotov Jr.

Deputies Call Le Pen's Rise a Warning

The Moscow Times, April 23, 2002

Leading State Duma deputies warned on Monday that the strong showing of far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in France's weekend presidential election should serve as a wake-up call.

They blamed immigration for the rise of the far right in France and said Russia could face a similar situation if it does not set strict limits.

At least one politician, Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, fired off a telegram of congratulations. Le Pen, head of the anti-immigration and anti-globalization National Front party, stunned Europe by coming in second in the Sunday election, thus making it into a runoff against incumbent President Jacques Chirac.

"It is very important for us not to repeat the mistakes of the Europeans," said Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Duma's foreign affairs committee. "Otherwise, one cannot rule out that in several years, right or far-right political forces may come into power in Russia." Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Lukin agreed, saying the main lesson to be drawn from the French election is that countries including Russia must have a good handle on demographic and immigration issues.

"In no way does this mean that immigration processes have to be brought to a halt in our country, but there should be clear limitations in the policy," Lukin, who is also a co-founder of the Yabloko party, was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Widespread resentment of illegal immigration from the Caucasus has already fueled nationalist policies in the southern Krasnodar region and some other parts of Russia. Skinhead attacks on ethnic minorities in Moscow and across the country prompted President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to order legislation to crack down on extremism. Rogozin said that about half of Russia's estimated 10 million immigrants are illegal and that if the current rate of immigration continues, Europeans will "disappear as a nation as we know it" in 15 to 20 years.

Zhirinovsky, who has long counted Le Pen as a friend, told Interfax: "The future belongs to the right nationalist parties. People are tired of flabby democracies that generate crime and mass immigration."

"With your iron fist you have shaken up France and made it wake up from a lethargy inspired by the mystics of globalization and communist fairytales," he wrote in the telegram.

Aside from Zhirinovsky, lawmakers appeared to agree that Chirac would win the May 5 runoff. "The tactics of the runoff in France will be similar to the tactics of one-time runoffs in Russia, when the choice was between the bad and the very bad," said Mikhail Margelov, head of the Federation Council's foreign affairs committee. Margelov played a key role in uniting voters against the communists during President Boris Yeltsin's re-election bid in 1996.

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The Moscow Times, April 23, 2002

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