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France's Front National far right punches high in local polls

France's Front National far right punches high in local polls
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In France’s latest municipal elections, almost four out of ten voters abstained. The centre-right UMP did best in Sunday’s round one, scooping more than 46 percent of the country’s votes, the governing Socialist party almost 38 percent. Notably, however, the far right Front National (FN) packed quite a punch.

Ifop polling expert Frédéric Badi said: “The left lost badly except in a few strongholds. The Front National only ran in 600 cities; this means only one French voter in three had the chance to vote FN. The five percent score it got across the country is an illusion compared to its real potential.”

In eight cities the FN candidate polled the strongest, winning outright in its northern bastion of Hénin Beaumont in the first round of voting. It could win the others next Sunday. A lot of cities show a strong potential of swinging into conservative hands (UMP). The left swing potential is relatively rare.

In the ex-industrial north, the small city of Hénin Beaumont has been in Socialist hands since 1945, and FN leader Marine Le Pen has been vote-hunting here for several years; finally, the FN candidate gets to be mayor. That’s just the thin end of the wedge in her strategy.

Le Pen said: “The Front National success signifies a national force and also, from now on, a great local force. It’s a vote calling for us to grow roots in all the territories of the Republic, to prepare for tomorrow’s alternative.”

France’s big centre-left and centre-right parties realise tomorrow’s alternative could hurt them worse: the daughter of FN founder former paratrooper Jean-Marie aims to gain ground gradually in preparation for the legislative elections to be held in 2017. The prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, appealed to stop the FN in its tracks.

Ayrault said: “Where the Front National is ready to prevail in the second round, the left and the right are responsible for creating the conditions to prevent it.”

UMP leader François Copé said: “Round two should switch from yellow card to red card; women and men who voted for the Front National, next Sunday should massively go over to UMP candidates to really make their opposition to the left felt.”

That meant there’ll be no alliances where one side pulls out in a given race, to let the one remaining bar the road to the FN. But voters for the far right have already shown that there will be cities where a participating majority will welcome the Front National.