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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Le Pen's Politics Gain Ground in France

STRASBOURG, France -- When France last held a presidential election, the far-right's Jean-Marie Le Pen stunned the world by muscling his way into a runoff with incumbent Jacques Chirac.

It's unlikely that he will score a similar coup in next week's presidential election, but with polls giving him up to 16 percent of the vote, it's clear the xenophobic slogans he spouts with a strange mixture of truculence and charm still resonate strongly with an electorate that sees globalization as one of its worst enemies.

In fact, the issues preoccupying the French -- jobs, immigration, integrating a large and restive Muslim minority -- have catapulted many of Le Pen's views into the mainstream, with both leading candidates on the left and right lifting lines from the veteran nationalist.

It's a phenomenon seen across Europe: Deep anxieties over security and unemployment have fueled a sharp shift to the right, causing mainstream politicians to implement policies that just a few years ago would have seemed the exclusive terrain of ultranationalists.

In Britain, center-left Prime Minister Tony Blair campaigned two years ago on the slogan "Your country's borders protected," while his conservative rivals proposed HIV and tuberculosis tests for immigrants.

But the far right does not appear to be drastically bleeding supporters as the center co-opts its agenda. On the contrary, many nationalist groups appear to be enjoying a resurgence.

In France, the wily Le Pen, 78, has also capitalized on the mainstream's embrace of his ideas, gloating as front-runners Nicolas Sarkozy on the right and Segolene Royal on the left hoist two of his pet issues -- immigration and national identity -- to center stage.

Sarkozy says he wants to create a Ministry of Immigration and National Identity and has also reworked Le Pen's longtime catchphrase: "France, love it or leave it." Royal, who is polling second, has pulled at patriotic heartstrings by calling for all French to keep the tricolor flag at home and making supporters sing the national anthem at her rallies.

It has never been clear how much of Le Pen's enduring appeal is a protest vote against the political elite. "Le Pen dreams of himself as the remedy; he knows he's just a symptom, a thermometer measuring France's fever," editorialist Renaud Dely wrote in left-leaning daily Liberation. "The worse France is, the better Le Pen is."