French far-right 'routed' in election run-off

Exit polls show far-right National Front failed to win any region in French elections

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for the National Front in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region, speaks after election run off in Henin-Beaumont, France, December 13, 2015

Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front (FN)  failed to win any region in French elections on Sunday, an indication that she may not be able to run as a presidential contender in 2017 as she had hoped.

Partial results from the interior ministry showed that the conservatives performed slightly better, as they won seven constituencies in comparison to the currently governing socialists, who won five.  

However, FN won more votes than any other party nationally in the first round of the elections. She said that compared to regional elections in 2010, numbers showed that the support for her party rose.

"By tripling the number of the regional representatives voted in, the National Front will be the main force of opposition in the regional councils in France, an opposition which will be constructive but demanding," Le Pen said.

Le Pen had high hopes of running for president in 2017, after leading with the most votes in the first round of elections last week. The anti-immigration, anti-Europe party FN had the lead in six out of 13 regions in France.

French President Francois Hollande’s socialists did not win any region in the second round after it pulled their candidates out of both races. Instead, they urged their supporters to back former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives.

"Tonight, there is no place for relief or triumphalism," socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. "The danger posed by the far right has not gone away; far from it."

Sarkozy also said FN showed a "warning sent to all politicians, ourselves included, in the first round".

"We now have to take the time for in-depth debates about what worries the French, who expect strong and precise answers," he said, citing Europe, unemployment, security and national identity issues.

In the last regional election before the 2017 presidential and parliamentary ballots, the conservatives took the lead with about 41 percent of the nationwide vote, the socialists gained 31 percent while the FN had about 28 percent, according to TNS-Sofres-OnePoint.

Sunday’s election run off was seen as a test for all three rivals, Hollande, Sarkozy and Le Pen.

In the second round, Paris region shifted from left to right for the first time in 17 years.

Over the past two years, the FN has topped European and regional polls, supporting Le Pen’s claim that it is now “the first party in France”.

The FN recorded its best score on Sunday with 6.8 million votes nationally, up from just over six million in the first round and 6.4 million for Marine Le Pen in her 2012 presidential bid.

However, the results showed once again that the FN suffers in the deciding round as mainstream voters coalesce to keep the party from power as they did in 2002 when voters switched to Jacques Chirac in presidential elections against Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

TRTWorld and agencies