Sunday

26th May 2019

National Front comes second in French local elections

France's centre-right UMP won the first round of local elections Sunday (22 March), the far-right National Front came second and the governing Socialists third.

The elections, held in more than 2,000 local districts on all French territory except Paris and Lyon, were to elect the 101 departments’ assembly.

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  • Le Pen's party did not win the first round of the local elections but confirmed its support all over the country (Photo: frontnational)

They were considered as national test half-way through President Francois Hollande’s term.

Marine Le Pen’s National Front came second with 25 percent of the votes. The party did less well than expected having been ahead in most opinion polls, with as much as 33 percent of voting intentions.

But still it is the party’s highest ever score in local poll. The party will have candidates in the second round next Sunday in more than half of the "cantons" and it is in top place in about 40 departments.

The result shows that the party is now well established all over the country and is an indication that it could do well in December’s regional elections.

Le Pen welcomed the “massive vote" for her party and called for prime minister Manuel Valls’ resignation saying the result represented a "repudiation" of his policies.

The day’s main winner was former president Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of the UMP conservative party.

Six months after coming back to politics, the UMP’s result – it got around 30 percent of the vote – will allow Sarkozy to claim that his party contained the National Front.

The vote "shows French people’s deep aspiration for a clear change," Sarkozy said in a speech, adding that "the conditions for a massive swing to the right and centre are in place".

If confirmed at the second round next Sunday, the party’s performance will give Sarkozy a boost against his rivals for the upcoming right’s presidential primary elections.

With 20 percent of the vote, Hollande and Valls’ socialist party came third but did better than had been expected. However it will be absent in one ‘canton’ in four, which is unprecedented.

With the addition of other left wing parties, the total for the left is around 37 percent.

The main issue for Sunday’s second round will how many seats the National Front will win and how other parties will position themselves.

"All republicans are facing their responsibilities," said Valls in a televised statement.

"I call on each one to adopt a clear position and vote for the republican candidate, whether from the left or right, when he is facing the far-right alone," he said.

Sarkozy, for his part, maintained the so-called 'neither-or' position.

"The UMP will call to vote neither for the National front, with which we have nothing in common, neither for candidates from the left, whose policies we fight," he said.

French centre-right weighs up a Sarkozy return

As France's centre-right is torn apart by bitter infighting, speculation is rising about whether it will turn to former President Sarkozy to pull it out of the political mire.

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