Socialists win parliament seat in face-off with National Front

AFP | Socialist party candidate Frédéric Barbier reacts to results of the second round by-election on February 8 in Audincourt.

France's ruling Socialists beat the far-right National Front party to secure a vacant seat in parliament for the Doubs region with 51.43% of the vote to 48.57%, official results said Sunday.


President François Hollande’s ruling Socialists won the hotly contested by-election after the conservative UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) party candidate was eliminated in the first round.

Hollande, long plagued by plummeting popularity figures, has seen his approval ratings double from record lows in the aftermath of last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Underscoring the high stakes in the election, senior Socialists – including Prime Minister Manuel Valls – travelled to the Doubs region to lend support to their candidate.

In the end, Socialist Frédéric Barbier won 51.4 percent of votes, just ahead of National Front candidate Sophie Montel.

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

But the win of the seat left vacant by Pierre Moscovici, a Socialist deputy appointed as an EU commissioner, will be a relief for Hollande’s party, whose control of the National Assembly (lower house) was weakened by the defection last month of one of their lawmakers to the far left.

In the first round, the National Front’s Montel came out ahead with 32.6 percent, while Barbier came in second with 28.9 percent, ahead of the UMP contender.

The fact that the UMP’s candidate was eliminated in the first round has led to some speculation that UMP leader and ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy may have lost his ability to mobilise right-leaning voters.

His authority has been further undermined by a row within the UMP over what message to convey to the party faithful in the second round. A poll by Odoxa found that 68 percent of respondees said his authority as a political figure had been undermined by the controversy.



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