Big FN gains as voters stay away

Marine Le Pen

Far-right party’s candidates will be involved in second round of voting in more than 300 towns and cities across France

THE FRONT National was the biggest winner in France’s municipal elections, which was notable for its historic low turnout.

According to BFM TV this morning, a record 38.72% of the electorate failed to vote yesterday.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right party made gains across the country and has candidates in next Sunday’s second round in 315 towns across the country.

In Henin-Beaumont (Pas-de-Calais), FN candidate Steeve Briois won 50.26% of the vote to become the party’s first mayor in 17 years. It was, according to the party’s president Mme Le Pen, a “spectacular” and “unexpected” victory.

In 15 other cities across France, an FN candidate is in at the head of the list going into Sunday’s second vote. It already has 472 councilors, the party’s vice president Florian Philippot told iTele this morning.

It is, however, unlikely to achieve the target of winning mayoral control of 12 towns and cities. As well as Henin- Beaumont, the FN is in contention for the mayoral seat in Fréjus (Var), Saint -Gilles (Gard), Forbach (Moselle) and Beziers (Hérault). According to the Ministry of the Interior, the FN has 4.51 % of the national vote.

Nationally, President François Hollande’s Socialist Party were the biggest losers. They polled 37.74% of the vote, down five points from 2008.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the results were bad news for the Socialist Party. Speaking at a press conference last night, he said: “Some voters expressed their concerns or doubts with their votes or abstentions."

UMP, meanwhile, which had urged voters to “punish” Mr Hollande, picked up 46.54% of the vote - with candidates such as Alain Juppé cruising to victory in their towns.

Meanwhile, in Paris, UMP’s Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet came out marginally ahead of mayoral rival Anne Hidalgo, with 35,64% of votes, compared to 34,40% in the first round of voting, though the Socialist candidate remains favourite.

Mme Le Pen this morning said that the results “mark the end of the polarisation of politics in France”.

The party’s national executive was due to meet in Nanterre today to discuss Sunday’s second round of voting.

The Socialist Party’s Bruno Le Roux called on left-leaning voters who abstained in the first round to exercise their vote in the second round.

He said: “There are always lessons to be learned at the municipal elections.”

President of the Socialists’ National Assembly Claude Bartolone, called for tactical voting in the second round to block the Front National. He did not rule out the possibility of Socialist candidates pulling out of the second round of voting to clear the way for UMP. “If this is the solution, it must be done,” he said.

Meanwhile, leading Communist Party politician André Chassaigne, who is deputy of Puy-de-Dôme, described the swing to the Front National as “worrying”.

He told France Info: “For the second round, the priority is to bar the way to the rise of the right and the National Front.”

On his blog this morning, Henin- Beaumont’s new FN mayor Mr Briois thanked his constituents and pledged his priority was to work for, “our town, our people and their future”.

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