Socialists pull out in three areas

A second round takes place on Sunday

The left throws in the towel in three regions in strategic bid to block Front National from winning

THE PARTI Socialiste is withdrawing from the regional elections in three regions after the dramatic gains by the Front National last night.

It has withdrawn candidates in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur and Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, where the FN had the largest wins, and has announced its intention to do so in the ‘Grand-Est’ (Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine).

However Grand Est socialist candidate, Jean-Pierre Masseret is reluctant to step down, but the party’s national office says he will have no choice.

The party pulled out to give voters a straight choice between the extreme right Front National and the right-wing Les Républicains.

The withdrawals are a strategic move to try to block the FN from gaining control of one or more of France’s new regions (which are reduced from 22 to 13 in metropolitan France from January 1) after the second round to be held on Sunday.

While the FN did not gain an absolute majority of expressed votes in any region (if they had done then a second round would not have been needed in those areas) it came top in six regions and has a good chance of winning in the three where the Socialists are pulling out.

In the second round only those party lists which obtained at least 10% in the first round may go forward.

In both Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur the FN gained almost 41%, with the lists being headed respectively by FN leader Marine Le Pen and her niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. In Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine, party vice president Florian Philippot gained 36%.

The Socialists are taking drastic action on the basis that they would rather their traditional rivals in Sarkozy’s Les Républicains gain regions than the far-right FN.

Les Républicains on the other hand have ruled out any withdrawals or strategic groupings with the left.

With about 30% of the votes nationally, the FN was last night the most popular party in France and has never been so close to power. It tripled its scores compared to the last regional elections in 2010.

Commentators said the picture last night may suggest many people wanted to make a protest vote against the party in power, but did not want to back the previous regime either. The tense security situation is also likely to have contributed.

The level of abstention at last night’s first round was close to 50%.

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