Saturday

4th Feb 2023

Far-right claims to be France's first party after elections

  • Party leader Marine Le Pen got 40 percent of votes in the the North region. (Photo: mlp_officiel)

The National Front has come first in half of the regions in a first round of local elections in France. Left and right are divided over a strategy to block it.

The results were expected but they created a shock in French politics. The far-right National Front (FN) came first in the first round of regional elections Sunday (6 December) with a 27.9 percent share of the votes.

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The FN is ahead in six of the 13 regions of metropolitan France, in second place in 3 regions and third in 3 other regions.

Six years ago, at the last regional elections, the FN score was 11.4 percent.

In Nord-Pas-de-Calais (North), where party leader Marine Le Pen is leading the FN list, it got 40.6 percent of votes, 16 percent ahead of the candidate in second place.

In the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region (South-East), the FN gets 40.55 percent. The list in the region is led by 25-year old Marion Marechal-Le Pen, Marine Le Pen's niece and the grand-daughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The Front National is "without contest the first party of France," Le Pen told supporters Sunday evening.

"We are destined to realise the national unity this country needs," she added, promising to lead voters "on the path to greatness and happiness."

'Barrage republicain'

The Socialist Party (PS) of president Francois Hollande and prime minister Manuel Valls came only third with around 23 percent.

It decided to remove its lists in the two regions where it is third, in the North and South-East, in order to block the FN.

"This sacrifice for our democratic ideal will not be in vain. It shows France that socialists can be there for the Republic," party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said.

The issue of the so-called "barrage republicain" - a "barricade to block the FN - will be at the centre of the campaign for the second round next Sunday (13 December).

Opposition leader Nicolas Sarkozy ruled out any alliance between the socialists and his center-right Les Republicains. Together with its centrists allies, Sarkozy's party came second with 27 percent.

The former president said that parties should "refuse the too easy temptation of I don't know what tactical arrangement". He called voters to "mobilise for the only possible change in power" represented by his party.

For the Front National, Sunday's results are a confirmation of good performances in previous elections.

Low turnout

It came first in the 2014 European elections with 25 percent. Last spring, it got 25 percent at the first round of local elections but failed to win any departments.

Winning two regions or more would be a breakthrough for the party, 18 months before the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2017.


The regional elections took place four weeks after the terrorists attacks that killed 130 people in Paris and the FN, which campaigns on security and immigration, benefited from the shock.

But the FN may also have benefited from a low turnout. Only 49.9 percent of registered voters went to polling stations.

Polls show that FN voters mobilised more than other parties' voters, and leaders called on them to vote next Sunday.

"Every vote will count. What is at stake is the future of your region, the future of our country," Sarkozy said.

"People of the left, one more time the Republic depends on you. Let's mobilise everywhere," Cambadelis.

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