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Far-right poised to make gains in French regional polls

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Far-right poised to make gains in French regional polls


It is his first test at the ballot box since the terror attacks in Paris.

France is voting on Sunday in the first round of regional elections and while President Francois Hollande has earned praise personally for his handling of the crisis, his Socialist Party is widely expected to slump.

All eyes are on the far-right National Front whose popularity has been growing.

Speaking after the attacks, party leader Marine Le Pen called for Islamist fundamentalism to be ‘annihilated’
and for France to regain control of its borders.

That message could help her win in the north and her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen take control of the southeastern region.

The National Front (FN) may lead in as many as six out of 13 regions after the first round on Sunday.
A conclusive run-off will take place on December 13.

“After the November 13 attacks we saw a clear increase in support for the National Front,” Ifop pollster analyst Jerome Fourquet said.

“Everything is adding up for (it) to make an unprecedented score.”

The first such victories for the Front could serve as a launchpad for Marine Le Pen’s presidential ambitions in 2017.

The conservatives of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy are also expected to do well in the regional polls, taking place amid tight security under the state of emergency declared in France following last month’s bloodshed.

Voter turnout this Sunday and next will also be key in polls that are usually spurned by about half the electorate both because of their complex two-round system and a lack of understanding of their role in France’s multi-layered administrative structure.

French regions rule over local transport and economic development as well as high schools and vocational training, with beefed up powers after a reform that cut their numbers from 22 to 13.

But in centralized France, their role is far smaller than that of their powerful German or Spanish counterparts.

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