Le Pen was born at La Trinité-sur-Mer, a small Breton harbour, as the son of a fisherman. Le Pen was orphaned as an adolescent, his father's boat blown up by a mine.
Le Pen studied political science and law, and was at one time the president of an association of law students in Paris.
He is currently the president of the political party National Front, and has several times run for the presidential elections.
A decorated veteran of the French paratroops in Indochina (1953), Algeria (1957) and Suez (year), Le Pen started his political career in Paris in 1956 when he became a the youngest member of the French National Assembly, with the party of Pierre Poujade. Earlier, in 1953 he had organized youth volunteers to carry out disaster relief after a flood in the Netherlands. In 1972, he founded the right-wing party National Front. The electoral results of the National Front have been on the rise since the municipal elections of 1983.
In 1984 and 1999 Le Pen won a seat in the European Parliament. He was deprived of his seat by the European Court of Justice on April 10, 2003. In 1992 and 1998 he was elected to the regional council of Provence-Alpes-C�te d'Azur. His political career has been most successful in the south of France.
Le Pen ran in the French presidential elections in 1974, 1988, 1995 and 2002. In the presidential elections of 2002, Le Pen obtained 16.86% of the votes in the first round of voting. This was enough to qualify him for the second round, as a result of the poor showing by the Socialist candidate and incumbent prime-minister Lionel Jospin and the scattering of votes among fifteen other candidates. This was a major political event, both nationally and internationally, as it was the first time an extreme right-wing candidate qualified for the second round of the French presidential elections.
Despite his undoubted popularity, Le Pen has been severely criticized both at home and abroad for perceived xenophobia and anti-Semitism. He has made remarks which are widely considered to be anti-Semitic; on 13 September 1987 he referred to the gas chambers as "a point of detail of the Second World War." In February 1997, Le Pen accused President Chirac of being "in the pay of Jewish organizations, and particularly of the notorious B'nai B'rith".
In May 1987 he advocated isolating those infected with AIDS (whom he calls "sida�ques1") from society by placing them in a special "sidatorium".
In April 2000 he was suspended from the European Parliament after physically attacking the Socialist candidate Annette Peulvast-Bergeal during the 1997 general election. This ultimately led to losing his seat in the European parliament in 2003.
It has also been established that he practiced torture in Algeria. Although war crimes committed during the Algerian War of Independence are amnestied in France, this fact was publicised by the newspapers Le Canard Enchain� and Lib�ration and by Michel Rocard (ex-Prime Minister) on TV (TF-1 1993). Le Pen sued the papers and Michel Rocard. This affair ended in 2000 when the "Cour de cassation" (French supreme jurisdiction) concluded that it was legitimate to publish this fact. However, because of the amnesty, there can be no further penal issues.
Le Pen supporters applaud his nationalistic pride and economic position. However, Bruce Crumley in Time International, 6/5/022 writes: "Denunciations of Jean-Marie Le Pen and his xenophobic National Front (FN) as racist, anti-Semitic and hostile to minorities and foreigners aren't exactly new. More novel, however, are such condemnations coming from far-right movements like the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), which itself won international opprobrium in 1999 after entering government on a populist platform similar to Le Pen's."
In later years, however, Le Pen softened his message and did not make any racist-sounding remark.
Le Pen's success in the first round of the 2002 French presidential election - he finished second, but lost by a wide margin in the second round against incumbent president Jacques Chirac - is generally explained by the impatience of the French electorate with respect to the reduction of crime. The electoral campaign had largely been focused on an alleged burst of criminality in the recent years. Le Pen advocates tough law-and-order policies.