National Front tops vote in French regional elections – exit polls

Big boost for Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party in first round of elections

French National Front leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech  in Henin-Beaumont, France, on Sunday.  One exit poll showed Ms Le Pen’s party secured 30.6 per cent of the vote nationally. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

French National Front leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech in Henin-Beaumont, France, on Sunday. One exit poll showed Ms Le Pen’s party secured 30.6 per cent of the vote nationally. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

 

France’s far-right National Front topped the vote nationally in the first round of high-stakes regional elections on Sunday, exit polls showed, a major boost for the anti-immigration party.

Lifted by fears over the November 13th Islamic State attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, stubbornly high unemployment and worries about immigration, Marine Le Pen’s party secured 30.6 per cent of the vote nationally, an exit poll by Ifop-Fiducial poll showed.

The anti-Europe, anti-immigration party beat former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative Les Republicains party and their allies, who secured 27 per cent, into second place. As expected, President Francois Hollande’s ruling Socialists came third, polling 22.7 per cent.

Ahead of a second round in a week’s time, the National Front (FN) has not won any region outright, but if the result is confirmed, it would be well placed to do well in a December 13th run-off. It has so far never ruled in anything bigger than less than a dozen French towns.

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Ms Le Pen herself came first in the north and her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen in the southeast, each gaining more than 40 per cent of the votes in those two regions.

The FN has come first in six regions out of 12, another poll for France 2 television showed, with the result for the 13th region, Paris, not yet known.

Major boost

The key question will now be whether the Socialists, seen third behind the FN and the Republicans in regions which the far-right could win over on December13th, will pull out of the race in those regions to try to keep them out of power.

The Socialist party’s top officials were meeting on Sunday night but might make their decision known only on Monday.

French regions rule over local transport and economic development as well as high schools and vocational training, with beefed-up powers after a reform that cut their numbers from 22 to 13.

Reuters