Massive French protests vs. Le Pen

Massive demonstrations continued across France this week against extreme rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen, who emerged as one of the two finalists in Sunday’s first-round presidential election.

French media reported tens of thousands of demonstrators including high school and college students, held rallies and sit-ins with slogans including “Le Pen is Fascist,” “Le Pen Out,” and “We are all children of immigrants.”

Le Pen received almost 17 percent of the vote in the first round, behind incumbent conservative President Jacques Chirac, but slightly ahead of Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who was eliminated from the May 5 runoff.

The vote for the extreme right means that a “heinous, racist and xenophobic” party will participate in the runoff, the French Communist Party (FCP) said in a statement.

The FCP, which received over 3 percent of the vote, said, “We are clear and without illusion about Jacques Chirac,” but the French political system and electoral rules leave no other choice but to avoid Le Pen.

China urges support for developing countries

A senior official of the Chinese People’s Bank, Li Ruogu, this week told a conference of the U.N. Economic and Social Council and the Bretton Woods Institutions at U.N. headquarters in New York that it is crucial for developing countries to participate fully in building a new world economic order.

Li said that in the fast developing world economy, the developing countries, with widening income gaps and growing populations, have benefited much less than have economically developed countries.

Li called on developed countries to provide full market access to developing countries, to expedite transfer of capital and technology, and to increase their Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the previously stated goal of 0.7 percent of Gross National Product.

“At the same time,” he said, “the conditions they attach to ODA should conform to realities in the recipient countries.”

Niger cuts ties with Israel

The sub-Saharan nation of Niger became the first country to sever ties with Israel since the Sharon government’s brutal campaign against the Palestinian people.

The government acted after thousands protested in the capital city, Niamey, last weekend to protest the Israeli government’s actions and demand the break in relations. Of Niger’s 10 million people, 80 percent are Muslim.

The country had renewed diplomatic relations with Israel in 1996, after a 23-year break following the 1973 Mideast war.

In announcing the government action, Lawal Kader Mahamadou, government secretary-general, declared that “Palestine must live as a sovereign state.”

Ukraine elections bolster anti-people reforms

Preliminary results of the March 31 elections for People’s Deputies in the Ukraine show that mainly the political forces serving the interests of the ruling system have come to the fore in the legislature and in the local governing bodies, the Communist Party of Ukraine said last week.

“These forces will continue the realization of the anti-people policy of ‘radical market reforms,” the CP said.

The party also called attention to numerous violations of democratic standards during the election campaign and on election day.

The Central Electoral Committee reported that nearly 70 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots.

Nearly a quarter of those voted for the “Our Ukraine” bloc, another 20 percent voted for the CP of the Ukraine, nearly 12 percent for the bloc “For United Ukraine,” and the rest for a variety of smaller parties.