Toulouse shootings upend French election

News Agencies – March 22, 2012

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen says her anti-Islam agenda has been vindicated: A French Muslim claiming ties to Al Qaeda has taken responsibility for the country’s worst killing spree in years. The spectre of radical Islam’s grip on France has threatened to overturn France’s presidential race, in which Socialist Francois Hollande has long been the pollster’s favourite to unseat the divisive conservative president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Le Pen, the No. 3 candidate in polls, said France must “wipe out” the Islamist threat, saying it has been minimized by authorities. Sarkozy has borrowed from Le Pen’s playbook in campaigning for the presidential election on April 22 and its expected runoff May 6, with talk of halving immigration and lamenting widespread availability of halal meat.

A poll released Thursday suggested that Sarkozy may benefit politically from the horror of recent days. The survey by CSA suggested Sarkozy would slightly dominate the first round of voting in April but lose to Hollande in the May runoff by 36 per cent to 45 per cent. That was the smallest spread yet and the highest score for Sarkozy so far for polls by CSA in this campaign.
Support for Le Pen was notably down. The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday, after a rabbi and three children were shot dead at a Jewish school but before details about the suspect Merah emerged. A total of 1,003 people were questioned by telephone.

Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the CFCM, an umbrella group for French Muslims, said what the suspect has done “is the very negation of … Islam.” The powerful Muslim organization UOIF asked all citizens “not to succumb to the panic of stigmatizing Muslims, which feeds Islamophobia.” In the case of Le Pen, it may already be too late. “We have underestimated, I think, the rise of radical Islam in our country,” Le Pen said. “We didn’t want to see it, out of weakness or for electoral reasons, that recruiting is going on in our neighbourhoods by political-religious groups.”

Obama wins over hearts and minds in Europe

Barack Obama’s candidacy is winning over hearts and minds in Europe, where his race, youth, and promise of change are raising hopes for a likeable America, once again. German weekly magazine Der Spiegel placed a picture of the Illinois Senator on its February cover under the headline The Messiah Factor. Inside, the magazine discussed Obama as exemplary rejection of the Bush era and links to the Iraq war, Abu Graib scandal, and egoistic diplomacy. A string of British pro-Obama groups have sprung up on the social networking site _Facebook,’ and a recent survey published by the CSA polling group last month showed that the French now favor Obama over Hillary Clinton.