Tuesday

22nd May 2018

Far-right gives Hollande a bloody nose in French voting

  • Le Pen's anti-immigrant party is set for gains in municipal elections in France (Photo: frontnational.com)

Initial results in French regional elections show the growing popularity of Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National party.

Exit polls indicate it got 7 percent of the vote nationwide, compared to 43 percent for President Francois Hollande’s Socialists and 48 percent for the centre-right UMP.

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But the FN fielded just 596 candidates in the 36,000 French municipalities where votes took place

It beat the centrist parties in a dozen or so southern cities, including Beziers, Saint-Gilles, Frejus, and Perpignan.

It won in the former Socialist stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, near Lille, and came a close second in other traditionally Socialist constituencies, like Nimes, Cavaillon, Istres and Villeneuve-sur-Lot.

It also made in-roads in Marseille, and in cities further north like Metz, Lille, Saint-Etienne, Amiens, and Quimper. In Marseille, the far-right candidate pushed the Socialist contender into third place, with the centre-right incumbent out on top.

Around 61 percent of the electorate voted, a historic low in a municipal election, with a second round of voting set for next week.

Le Pen told TF1 television on Sunday: “The National Front has arrived as a major independent force - a political force both at the national and local level.”

But Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said more people need to turn out and vote in the second round to prevent the FN from sealing its victories. “Wherever the FN is in a position to win the second round, all who support democracy and the Republic have a duty to prevent them,” he noted.

Hollande’s popularity has nosedived in recent months, amid high unemployment, sluggish growth, and personal embarassments for the centre left leader.

His approval rating is just 23 percent, but was as low as 15 percent - the lowest such figure in French history.

At the same time, Le Pen is said to have made her party more palpable to the general public by including left-wing elements in its image.

An MEP since 2004, Le Pen is stanchly anti-EU, wants tighter border controls, and an exit from the euro.

French Socialists bruised in local elections

France's ruling Socialists have suffered a bruising defeat in local elections, with the centre-right claiming victory and the anti-EU National Front making further gains – a possible preview of the upcoming EU elections.

Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund

The European Commission wants to triple the amount of money for migration in the next EU budget. Earlier this week, EU agencies, NGOs, and the mayor of Athens gave their views at a European parliament public hearing.

Agenda

Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK

The Facebook CEO will brief MEPs on data protection - but only behind closed doors. Meanwhile EU leaders are scratching their heads on how to deal with US president Trump's erratic decisions on trade and the Iran deal.

Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

The EU parliament's budget rapporteur complained the Commission is using numbers with a "desire to confuse". According to parliament estimates, the cohesion fund could suffer as much as a 45 percent cut.

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