France's National Front tops EU election survey
By Honor Mahony
France's National Front party has come out top in a poll on how French voters intend to cast their ballot in next year's EU elections.
A poll by Ifop for Le Nouvel Observateur, published Wednesday (9 October), found that 24 percent of those asked said they will vote for the anti-immigration, anti-Muslim National Front party.
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The centre-right UMP managed 22 percent while the Socialists, political home to President Francois Hollande, comes third with 19 percent.
The newspaper remarks that the poll is "of course not a prediction. But it describes a new reality in French political life.
"The FN is changing in nature. Its place is not longer at the margins of the political game but at the centre."
The party won a record 18 percent of the vote in last year's presidential election, with its leader Marine Le Pen credited with bringing in previously unwooed parts of the electorate.
Almost one in five women and nearly 25 percent of 18-24 year olds voted for the party, new percentages for the FN.
The party campaigns for curbing immigration and exiting the euro. Le Pen has styled herself as protecting France against both the "European Soviet Union" and against Muslim immigration.
Meanwhile there could be political upheavals during the 22-25 May election in other countries too.
Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, who PVV party advocates withdrawing from both the euro and the EU, remains a major force in the Netherlands.
It has been polling top in the domestic scene in recent weeks amid frustration with the current government's economic policies and amid rising euroscepticism among the Dutch.
Both Wilders and Le Pen have mooted the possibly teaming up to campaign ahead of the elections.
The eurosceptic, anti-immigration UK Independence Party, came third in local elections in May.
It is currently polling at 11 percent, ahead of the junior governing party, the Liberal Democrats, but is tipped to exceed the 16 percent it claimed in 2009, while party leader Nigel Farage has himself predicted an "earthquake" next year.
The National Front poll is set to heighten fears - already alive in Brussels - that the elections to the European Parliament will result in large gains for extremist parties.
Some hope that the personalization of the politics in the shape of parties putting forward candidates for European Commission president will motivate more people to go to the ballot boxes.
European political parties have not nominated candidates yet but there is increasing talk of Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, a veteran of the EU scene, being the centre-right's candidate.
European Parliament chief and socialist Martin Schulz is seen as a strong contender for the centre-left, with the French socialist party having endorsed him on Tuesday (8 October).