INTERNATIONAL NEWS: Le Pen works media in pre-election blitz

PARIS: Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen's campaign strategist Martial Bilt waged a media relations war as the second round of the French presidential elections loomed.

PARIS: Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen's campaign strategist Martial Bilt waged a media relations war as the second round of the French presidential elections loomed.

A major PR blitz was planned over the days leading up to the May 5 vote, when Le Pen challenged current president Jacques Chirac. The campaign featured intense media relations, with Le Pen making at least two media appearances a day in a bid to maximize coverage.

Bilt said he was also expecting more than 100,000 supporters to take part in last weekend's annual National Front march in Paris, honoring Joan of Arc - an event that took place after PRWeek went to press.

Le Pen's second major public appearance was set for Marseilles after the march, with a third scheduled for Lyon, but the campaign was "unable to find anybody to rent us a meeting hall,

Bilt said.

Bilt claimed problems such as this were unique to Le Pen's campaign.

The unusual circumstances led to the decision to focus his PR on maximizing media coverage.

"Such (media) events are certainly more cost-effective, given our limited resources. Our financial means are limited and our resources are several times less than those Chirac has at his disposal,

added Bilt.

Authorities reportedly made plans for 3,000 police officers, including 1,600 riot police, to be ready to react to any violence at the Paris National Front march.

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