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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

aFrance's National Front Puts Final Touches on 1998 Plan

STRASBOURG, France -- Jean-Marie Le Pen's far-right National Front, boasting of its pariah status in French politics, put the finishing touches Monday to its battle plan for breaking into parliament in 1998 elections.

On the final day of a three-day congress in Strasbourg, eastern France, would-be candidates cheered when National Front leaders assured them that, contrary to rumors, they would not be taxed for the privilege of running on the party's ticket.

In addition, the national organization will pour some 40,000 to 60,000 francs (some $7,000 to $10,000) into each of France's 577 constituencies where it has candidates, in the form of videos, posters and pamphlets, to help the party gain a foothold in parliament, where it now has no deputies.

The political establishment condemns the National Front as a fringe party that is racist and xenophobic. Surveys to date have suggested it will not win a single seat.

But Le Pen has been basking in the media spotlight after winning a fourth city hall last month and pressuring the center-right government into beefing up France's already tight immigration laws.

He predicted Sunday that the National Front will win at least "10 or 20 seats" in the March 1998 poll.

The National Front president, who has denied he is racist or anti-semitic, told delegates in a fiery hour-long speech Sunday that his supporters were excluded from the French mainstream.

He compared them to "a caste of less-than-citizens, pariahs who remind us of plague victims during the Middle Ages or the Jews of Nazi Germany."

He was scheduled to close the congress later Monday with his third speech, this one scheduled for an hour and a half.

A loose coalition of anti-National Front groups, meanwhile, maintained a feverish schedule of demonstrations and protests at the party's presence in the city that is home to the European parliament and the Council of Europe.

, which promotes democracy and human rights across the continent.

City residents were invited to a mass picnic in the city center Monday evening.

French far rightists finalize battle plan for 1998.