France’s National Front pulled off a historic win on Sunday, topping the vote in the first round of regional elections, in a breakthrough that shakes up the country’s political landscape before 2017 presidential elections.
Boosted by fears over the Islamic State attacks that killed 130 people in Paris on Nov. 13, as well as by record unemployment and immigration, Marine Le Pen’s party secured 29.4 per cent of the vote nationally, the interior ministry said, with over 85 per cent of the votes counted.
That is the highest score ever for the anti-EU, anti-immigration party, which came first in six regions out of 13.
“This is a historic, extraordinary result,” FN lawmaker Marion Marechal-Le Pen told TF1 television. “The old system died tonight.”
Twenty-five year old Marechal-Le Pen, the granddaughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen and niece of party leader Marine, led the first round in southeast France with 42 percent – twice her grandfather’s score there in 2010.
Run-offs will be held on Dec. 13.
Even one outright victory would be a major boost for Le Pen, who wants a base of locally elected officials to help her target power at the national level.
Her eye is on the 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections, with French politics now clearly a three-way race after Sunday’s election, ending decades of domination by the Socialists and conservatives.
While the FN is well placed to win one or more regions in the Dec. 13 run-off, especially after Marine Le Pen attracted over 41 per cent of the votes in the north, the Socialist party lowered its chances of doing so by announcing that it was pulling its candidates out of the race there and in the southeast.
The Socialist party is putting up a “barricade” to the right where it is far behind, party chief Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said. “The Left is the last shield of democratic France against the xenophobic far-right,” he said.
However, opinion polls before the election had shown that Le Pen could win even if the Socialists pulled out.
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