Five years ago the far-right French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, to the amazement and fury of the rest of the world, finished second in his country's Presidential election. He took 18% of the vote in the first round, to squeeze past the Socialist candidate and get into the final run-off against Jacques Chirac. The fact that he then lost heavily was much less significant than the fact he'd been able to do so well in the first place. When nearly one in five voters in a major country choose a racist fascist, it's pretty clear all is not as it should be.
Now, as France nears another election, it seems little has changed. One disputed, secret poll puts Le Pen back in second place, behind only Nicolas Sarkozy, and once again ahead of the Socialists. The riots of 2005 are just the most memorable of the various racist problems to hit France in the last five years, allowing Le Pen, despite the fact he's now getting old, to remain a serious political player. Official polls put him in fourth, behind both the Socialist Segolene Royal and the centrist candidate Francois Bayrou. But five years ago a lot of people lied to the pollsters, and put their cross next to Le Pen's name when they got into the booth. It could definitely happen again.