WORLD

Le Pen finds foreigners have a use

RACHEL MENDLESON August 25 2008
WORLD

Le Pen finds foreigners have a use

RACHEL MENDLESON August 25 2008

Le Pen finds foreigners have a use

RACHEL MENDLESON

The head of France’s far-right party has campaigned for president several times under the slogan “Keep France for the French.” But it appears debt has driven Jean-Marie Le Pen to ignore his own rhetoric. Despite his staunchly antiimmigrant stance, the 79-year-old confirmed this week that his National Front is selling its historic Paris headquarters to a Chinese university in a bid to get back in the black.

Le Pen says the party plans to move to a rented property in Nanterre this fall, but the decision to sell couldn’t have been easy. The prestigious 5,000-sq.-m mansion overlooking the Seine is considered the party’s greatest asset. Nicknamed the Cruiseliner, the headquarters were thought to be a symbol of the party’s upward mobility, which culminated in 2002 when Le Pen shocked Europe by making it to the second round of presidential elections. But money woes have

dogged the party since a battering in last year’s parliamentary elections left more than two-thirds of its candidates without the five per cent support required to recoup the cost of their campaign from the state. In the financial fallout that ensued, bank accounts were frozen in disputes with creditors and Le Pen even auctioned off his bulletproof Peugeot on eBay.

Until the sale is final, Le Pen says he prefers to remain “discreet” about how much the mansion is going for. But reports indicate the unnamed Shanghai institution, which is considering using the Cruiseliner as a French language school, is prepared to pay between $18 million and $22 million, which is significantly less than $30 million—the most it’s thought the National Front was hoping to net. But the sale should erase the party’s estimated $13.5-million debt, with enough left over to cover at least a few month’s rent. M