Le Pen attacks Brussels "gravediggers" in May Day event
02.05.14 @ 10:24
BRUSSELS - Marine Le Pen launched the National Front's campaign for the European elections with a stinging attack on the European Union on Thursday (May 1), urging voters to punish Brussels "gravediggers".
Speaking at the party's May Day rally in Paris, attended by thousands of activists, Le Pen laid a wreath at the memorial of French mediaeval heroine Joan of Arc, before accusing the EU of being responsible for France's economic and social decline.
"On May 25, put an end to this system that despises you ... turn your back on the dishonour and capitulation," she told supporters.
Pre-election surveys suggest that the National Front and the centre-right UMP party are in a straight fight to top the poll in France, well ahead of the governing socialist party.
Le Pen is hoping to set up a group of right-wing nationalist parties following May's elections, and has already secured allies in Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. Polls suggest that close to 100 far-right MEPs could be elected across the 28 country bloc.
Across most of Europe, celebrations of International Workers' Day passed peacefully, although 19 people were arrested following clashes at a neo-Nazi May Day march in Jönköping, central Sweden.
In Copenhagen, Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, herself tipped as a candidate for one of the EU's top jobs, faced boos and whistling during her speech to May Day revellers.
European election polls put the far right Danish Peoples Party top on 25 percent, slightly ahead of the Liberals on 24 percent and Thorning-Schmidt's governing Social Democrats on 22 percent.
The EU's cash-strapped southern periphery countries were hit by a wave of strike action in Greece, Portugal and Spain.
Elsewhere, on the campaign trail in Nottingham, a protestor threw an egg at Ukip leader Nigel Farage. But despite reams of bad press in recent weeks, the eurosceptic party continues to top the polls. A poll for ITV puts Ukip on 38 percent of the vote for the European elections, compared with 27 percent for Labour and 18 percent for the Tories.
In Turkey's Istanbul, meanwhile, hundreds of riot police fired teargas and water cannon against protesters as they tried to breach barricades leading to the city's iconic Taksim Square.
In a statement, the Istanbul governors office said that 90 people had been injured and 142 arrested following clashes between police and flag-waving protesters hurling stones and molotov cocktails. The government had imposed a ban on protesting at the square.