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Nicolas Sarkozy.(LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s election season in France, which, as it does in all countries, means a collective drop in IQ. In a Tuesday debate, President Nicolas Sarkozy repeated his Saturday call for “the ticketing [labeling] of meat according to its method of slaughter.” Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Francois Fillon suggested on the radio that it was time Muslims and Jews forgo ritual slaughter.

The reason this is a discussion in an election year with, let us say, bigger fish to fry, is thanks to Front National leader Marine le Pen, the eldest daughter of its Holocaust-denying founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, and who a month earlier claimed that all meat sold in greater Paris was Halal—which people were innocently eating without knowing it.

As Robert Zaretsky reported in Tablet Magazine, the younger Le Pen has made a sustained attempt to rid the party of its anti-Semitic image since assuming leadership, replacing classic anti-Semitism with a an apparently more voter-friendly anti-Arab and anti-immigrant platform and even reaching out to the Jewish community and trolling for votes in Israel. It’s come at a cost though, as the change hasn’t sat well with the elder Le Pen or his inner-circle. Arthur Goldhammer explained on the Scroll last year that Father Le Pen was “not happy with her reorientation of the party line” and “advised her not to expel young members who made the Nazi salute, for fear of alienating ‘older elements’ in the party.”

Sarkozy’s tack to the right—and taking up of ridiculous issues—won him some Front National voters, and in some polls he is now neck and neck in the first round of elections with Socialist Francois Hollande. But, if you take for granted that Le Pen stood little chance of victory then the “collateral damage” of kosher slaughter is sure to strengthen her standing among the party’s anti-Semitic old guard, by showing them less obvious ways they can push their old “agenda” and allow her to leave one flank unprotected while she attempts to broaden the Front National’s growing appeal. The Front National won’t win the presidency—neither, most likely, will Sarkozy—but they aren’t losing much either.

Meanwhile, Sarkozy and Fillon have backtracked since Tuesday. Fillon explained to panicked Muslim and Jewish leaders that ritual slaughter won’t be banned, and Sarkozy said that labeling would be voluntary. Yet at the same Tuesday debate, Sarkozy—as many pointed out afterward, the son of a Hungarian immigrant—also took the Front National line on immigration, saying there were “too many foreigners” in France.

“I slept badly, and this morning, I’m not feeling well,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a member of the European parliament, 1960s student leader, JCALL co-founder and son of a German father. “Because he said something to me directly in the face. He told me, ‘You are an extra person.’ ”

Related:French Prime Minister Calls For End To Ritual Slaughter [JTA]
French PM Scrambles to Defuse Kosher Row [Reuters]
‘Too Many Foreigners’ in France, Sarkozy Says. [The Lede]
Ahead of French Elections, Sarkozy Makes Pitch to Jews [JTA]
Earlier: Is Marine Le Pen a Different Animal
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