French right-wing politician. Born 1928 in La Trinité-sur-Mer in Bretagne.
A paratrooper in the French campaigns in French Indochina in 1953 and in Algeria in 1957, he was elected to the National Assembly in 1956, representing the nationalist/populist movement, the Poujadistes.
In 1972, he founded the extreme right-wing party Front National. For years, his party remained at the fringe of European politics. In 1974, he ran for President, but garnered only 0.74% of the votes, and in 1981, he failed to get the 500 signatures necessary to run.
In the course of the 1980s, however, the Front National managed to achieve a more acceptable image, bolstered by a general political drift to the right in Europe. In the 1988 election, he captured 14.38% of the votes, and in 1995, 15.3%.
In the 2002 election, facing divided opponents headed by conservative incumbent Jacques Chirac and socialist Lionel Jospin, Le Pen managed to make it past the first round, with 17.02% of the vote, to Chirac's 19.67% - enough to gain him one of the two places in the run-off second round. A shocked left immediately resolved to oppose him by whatever means necessary, even if this meant voting for their long-time opponent Chirac.
Concurrently with his French political ambitions, Le Pen had managed to gain a seat in the European Parliament. However, he was removed from this in April 2000, following a conviction for assault on a socialist candidate during the 1997 elections.
Le Pen has several times been convicted for making public statements of a strongly hostile nature about Jews and immigrants:
- March 11, 1986 - convicted for making antisemitic remarks, at the court in Aubervilliers.
- November 16, 1987 - fined 3,000 and 5,000 French Francs at the Paris courts for inciting to racial discrimination, having (in 1984) described the presence of immigrants in France as "a veritable invasion".
- December 18, 1991 - Fined 100,000 Francs at the court at Versailles, for a statement made in a radio transmission in 1987, in response to a question about the Nazi gas chambers: "I have not studied the question, but I believe that this was a mere detail in the history of the Second World War."
- June 3, 1993 - fined 10,000 Francs for antisemitic remarks about a former cabinet minister.
- July 4, 1997 - fined 5,000 Francs for racist remarks aimed at the then-chairman of SOS Racisme, Fodé Sylla.
- December 26, 1997 - Fined a symbolic 1 Franc for having remarked, a few weeks earlier, that "In a book of 1000 pages about World War II, the concentration camps would take up two pages, and the gas chambers 10-15 lines."
All these fines are well within Le Pen's means. His personal fortune is valued at approximately 2-3 million Euro, mostly the result of a legacy he inherited in 1976 from a member of the wealthy family that owns the concrete company Ciments Lambert. Le Pen lives with his second wife Jany Le Pen in a palatial home in the Montetout area of Saint Cloud, an upscale suburb of Paris. According to Capital, Le Pen lost over a million Euro in failed investments during 1980.
Le Pen is the father of three daughters, Marine, Marie-Caroline and Yann, all active members of the Front National.