Jean-Marie Le Pen and his extreme right-wing National Front smarted under the embarrassment Monday of accusations that one of the party’s deputies to the European Parliament is an intelligence agent for Romania.
In the last year, Le Pen has managed to survive a series of embarrassments that analysts thought might undermine his political standing. But the latest accusations, if accepted widely in France, would strike at him hardest, since they go right to the heart of his image as a crusader against communism.
The accusations came in a front-page story in the London Sunday Times. The account, written by Jon Swain, a former Paris correspondent of the paper, said that Gustave Pordea, 69, a Romanian-born French citizen, had bought a place on the National Front ticket in the 1984 European parliamentary elections by giving Le Pen $500,000 in campaign funds. This money, the Sunday Times said, came from the Romanian intelligence service, known as the DIE from its initials in Romanian, but the newspaper said that Le Pen did not know the source.
The newspaper gave this account: The Romanians decided that they wanted an agent in the European Parliament and approached Pordea at a meeting in Vienna in December, 1983. Pordea, a former Romanian diplomat in exile in France, tried to buy his way onto the combined ticket of the powerful conservative parties of Mayor Jacques Chirac of Paris and former President Valery Giscard d’Estaing but failed. He then contacted Le Pen through a wealthy, right-wing countess. Accusations of this kind were reported months ago in the Socialist Paris newspaper Le Matin. But Pordea won a libel suit against Le Matin three weeks ago when the court ruled that the newspaper lacked the evidence to back up its accusations.
The Sunday Times, however, appeared to supply the missing evidence, and many French newspapers, which had played down the original Le Matin revelations, made the latest disclosures front-page news on Monday.
The London newspaper quoted Pierrette Le Pen, the estranged wife of Le Pen, as describing in detail how she collected half the money in bags handed to her by a Swiss banker in a Paris apartment.
In a statement issued Monday, however, a lawyer for Pierrette Le Pen said that she denied having played such a role in the affair.
There was no immediate reaction from Le Pen, but the Sunday Times quoted Pordea as replying when confronted with the details of the newspaper’s investigation: “Very funny. I have nothing to say. I am not going to confirm or deny anything.”
Victory a Shock
Le Pen shocked the French political world in 1984 by winning almost 11% of the vote and 10 of France’s 81 seats in the European Parliament with a rightist, anti-immigrant campaign.
Although he denies that he is racist and tries to tone down some of his oratory, Le Pen’s nationalist, anti-communist rhetoric sounds close enough to some of the French fascist vocabulary of the 1930s and 1940s to trouble many French.
While he is not expected to do as well in next March’s French legislative elections as he did in the European elections, Le Pen and his National Front are sure to figure as a strong minority force and to win seats in the French Parliament for the first time.
In the last year, Le Pen has been the target of a series of exposes but, at least until now, escaped each one without political damage. Two French newspapers, Liberation and the weekly Canard Echaine, accused him of torturing Arab prisoners while fighting with the French army during the Algerian war of independence.
Le Pen filed and lost libel suits against both newspapers, but the accusations, even if true, were not the kind that would upset his followers very much.
On top of this, Le Pen was accused by a former close associate, Dr. Jean-Maurice Demarquet, of standing by and doing nothing while Hubert Lambert, a rich, alcoholic friend, died in 1976. Lambert left his entire fortune to Le Pen, enabling the politician to strengthen his little-known political party. Le Pen deftly denied these accusations on a national television program, and they have not been raised again.