French voters will head to the polls on March 22 and 29, 2015 for elections to renew the local councils. Although not so appealing to the voters as the general or regional elections, the local elections provide a snapshot of the public’s political mood. And the mood has been shifting more and more toward the National Front – le Front National – the nationalist party led by the charismatic Marine Le Pen.
An opinion poll published by the French media on December 16 shows that 28% of the French voters state their intention to vote for the National Front, whereas the conservative UMP opposition party would get 25%. The governing Socialist Party and its allies would score 17%.
The figures show Marine Le Pen’s party strengthening its position on the French and European political chessboard. Already in 2014, at the European Parliament elections, the National Front led the field with 25% of the vote. Behind it came UMP with 21% of the vote. The ruling Socialists polled third, with 14% of the vote.
The National Front has benefited from, and to an extent fed anti-European sentiment in France but unlike Britain, France cannot play the same cat-and-mouse game in Brussels. No French government can challenge the legitimacy of the European project, which has been French and German-led from the start. France and its leaders are thus in a much tighter spot than the British. And while the UK elections are only a year away, President François Hollande and his government have to live with these pressures for the next three years.