Hollande’s socialists defeat National Front in byelection

President has seen his popularity ratings double from record lows in the wake of Paris attacks

Francois Hollande: his party’s control of the national assembly was weakened by the defection last month of one of its deputies to the far left

Francois Hollande: his party’s control of the national assembly was weakened by the defection last month of one of its deputies to the far left

 

President François Hollande’s ruling Socialists won a hotly contested parliamentary byelection in eastern France yesterday, narrowly beating a National Front rival after the conservative UMP candidate was eliminated in the first round.

Mr Hollande has seen his popularity ratings double from record lows in the wake of last month’s Islamist attacks in Paris.

Underscoring the stakes of the election, senior Socialists including prime minister Manuel Valls travelled to the Doubs to support their candidate.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right, anti-immigrant National Front has seized on dissatisfaction with mainstream parties in industrial or rural areas where unemployment is higher. It hopes to see gains in departmental elections in just over a month.

Socialist Frédéric Barbier won 51.4 per cent of votes, just ahead of National Front candidate Sophie Montel in the industrial north of the Doubs department.

The victory in the seat left vacant by Pierre Moscovici, a Socialist deputy appointed an EU commissioner, will be a relief for Mr Hollande’s party, whose party’s control of the national assembly was weakened by the defection last month of one of its deputies to the far left.

First round

The fact that the UMP’s candidate was eliminated in the first round has led some observers to suggest its leader, ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, has lost his ability to mobilise right-leaning voters.

His authority has been further undermined by a row within the UMP over which message to give to the party faithful in the second round, with the party finally urging them to abstain. – (Reuters)