France's Far-Right Party Leads Regional Elections With Unprecedented 30%-Plus Of Votes

As we warned last week, Europe is about to change forever, and sure enough, Marine Le Pen's National Front party is on course for a historic result in regional elections on Sunday, winning more than 30 per cent of the vote and leading the country’s two mainstream parties. Our words from the day after the Paris attacks, when Le Pen called for "eradication" of Muslims and demanded the nation "re-arm itself," seem extraordinarlity prophetic now "if there is one 'winner' from last night's terrible events in Paris, it is France's anti-EU, anti-immigration far-right wing Front Nationale party leader Marine Le Pen."

 

As Bloomberg headlines show, exit polls have FN in a significant lead...

  • *NATIONAL FRONT LEADS FRENCH REGIONAL VOTE, IPSOS SAYS
  • *FRANCE'S NATIONAL FRONT TAKES 30.8% OF NATIONAL VOTE: IFOP
  • *FRANCE'S REPUBLICANS TAKE 27.2% OF NATIONAL VOTE: IFOP
  • *FRANCE'S SOCIALIST PARTY TAKES 22.7% OF NATIONAL VOTE: IFOP

Le Pen is over the moon...

As The FT reports, in the first test of public opinion since the November 13 terrorist attacks, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party looked set to notch up its best result since it was founded in 1972...

President François Hollande’s Socialists and leftwing allies had just 22.3 per cent of the vote while former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right bloc had 26.4 per cent, according to the preliminary figures.

 

Victory in at least one of France’s 13 regions - definitive results will only be known after next Sunday’s second-round vote - would be a first for the FN, helping to build momentum as it looks to the 2017 presidential contest.

 

Opinion polls before the vote suggested the party could come top in as many as six of France’s 13 regions in Sunday’s first round.

 

The election, to be completed in a second round next Sunday, will decide the make-up of regional governments, which have power over issues such as local transport, airports, ports and some schools.

The result provides a sense of the national political mood barely 18 months before the presidential election.

“Taking control of even a single region in these elections would be an unprecedented achievement,” said James Shields, professor of French politics at Aston University.

“This is the first test of public political opinion since the terrorist attacks of 13 November. It’s also the last opportunity to gauge the standing of political parties and potential candidates some 16 months before the critical presidential elections of 2017.

“Though essentially about regional governance, these elections are important as a barometer of the political climate in France as we begin to near the end of President Hollande’s term of office.”

Mr Hollande, whose Socialist party holds 12 of the 13 regions, has seen his popularity rise from record lows since the attacks... but Le Pen's success will force an uncomfortable alliance...

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Founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1972, the FN has long been associated with anti-Semitism. As recently as April this year, Mr Le Pen, father of Marine, sparked a family feud as he defended a past comment that Nazi gas chambers were “a detail” of history.

But Ms Le Pen, the party’s leader since 2011, has tried to “detoxify” the FN’s image and to bring it more into the mainstream. As part of that process, she has started to push other policies such as abandoning the euro in favour of the franc and giving the state an even bigger role as a promoter — and protector — of national industry. Those ideas have gone down well in a country where economic growth has remained sluggish in recent years, and where unemployment is at record highs. The FN’s popularity has soared in the north of the country, an industrial region particularly affected by France’s economic plight.

As is clear below...

Le Pen leads among France's top politicians...

 

And she is gaining further...