Sarkozy's main rival is not Gaddafi, but rather Marine Le Pen, the charismatic new leader of the far-right National Front party in France. A new opinion poll published by Le Parisien newspaper on March 8 has Le Pen, who took over from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in January, winning the first round of next year's presidential election.
The survey gives Le Pen 23%, two percentage points ahead of both Sarkozy and Socialist leader Martine Aubry. On the basis of this opinion poll, Le Pen would automatically qualify for the second round run-off with one or other of the two mainstream party leaders.
Le Pen, who appeals to middle class voters, is riding high on voter dissatisfaction with the failure of the mainstream parties to address the problem of Muslim immigration. Since taking her post three months ago, Le Pen has single-handedly catapulted the twin issues of Muslim immigration and French national identity to the top of the French political agenda. In recent weeks, Le Pen has been a permanent fixture on prime-time television to discuss the threat to France of a wave of immigrants from Libya.
Gaddafi has already pledged that Europe will be "invaded" by an army of African immigrants: "You will have immigration. Thousands of people from Libya will invade Europe. There will be no-one to stop them any more," he warned on March 6 in an interview with the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche.
During a visit to Italy in August 2010, Gaddafi demanded €5 billion a year from the European Union to stop illegal immigration which "threatens to turn Europe black." At the time, Gaddafi asked: "What will be the reaction of the white Christian Europeans to this mass of hungry, uneducated Africans? We don't know if Europe will remain an advanced and cohesive continent or if it will be destroyed by this barbarian invasion. We have to imagine that this could happen, but before it does we need to work together."
Furious Europeans have compared Gaddafi's demands for cash to stop illegal immigration to a "Mafia extortion racket." But since the revolt in Tunisia in January, nearly 15,000 boat people (more than the total for all of 2010) have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, a 20-square-kilometer island that traditionally has been a major gateway for illegal immigration into the European Union.
On March 14, Le Pen upstaged Sarkozy by visiting Lampedusa and telling undocumented migrants on the island that they were not welcome in Europe. "I have a lot of compassion for you, but Europe cannot welcome you," Le Pen said. "We do not have the financial means."
Gaddafi’s compound in Bab Al Azizia in Tripoli, bombed by American Forces in 1986.
Gaddafi’s bombed home at Bab Al Azizia, Libya, 1987, by Peter Arkell/Impact Photos
Google Earth image of Bab Al Azizia, location of Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, 2011
The most important aspect of the footage is the location where it was made. Gaddafi says, “I am in Tripoli”. More precisely, Gaddafi is located in front of his compound in Bab Al Azizia which was heavily bombed by the Reagan administration in 1986. Instead of rebuilding the shattered compound, Gaddafi chose to leave it as it is. The skeletal structure of the building acts as a powerful message of defiance and resilience. In 2003, just as Libya’s relationship with the West was thawing, Gaddafi even held a beauty pageant with international contestants, including British and American women, at this historically important site. The British photographer Muir Vidler produced a strikingly surreal series of photographs that depict the proceedings. The Bab Al Azizia compound would also become the backdrop to Nicolas Sarkozy’s state visit to Libya in 2007. The photograph clearly depicts Sarkozy’s discomfort for being turned into a strategically placed pawn by Gaddafi’s propaganda apparatus.
Muir Vidler, Libyan Beauty Pageant, 2003
Nicolas Sarkozy state visit to Libya in 2007
Hugo Chavez state visit to Libya in 2006