France's Socialists withdraw from three regional votes to block far right
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The Socialist Party will withdraw from the second round of regional elections in the north, east and southeast of France where the National Front (FN) made major gains on Sunday, in a move to block the far-right party, the socialist party chief said.
Socialist voters would be left to back conservatives in the three regions in a conclusive second round of voting on December 13, party chief Jean-Christophe Cambadélis said.
His comments followed a difficult night for President François Hollande’s party, with final results showing it took just 23 percent of the vote nationwide.
That put it behind both the FN's 28 percent and the 27 percent gained by centre-right Les Républicains (formerly the UMP) and their allies.
The FN, led by Marine Le Pen, performed particularly well in the northern Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region and in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur in the southeast, scoring over 40 percent of the vote in both regions.it
Announcing the withdrawal of Socialist candidates in both regions, Cambadélis said the Socialist Party would put up a “barricade” to the far right.
“This sacrifice will not be made in vain. It will show to the French nation that the Socialists rise to the Republic’s occasion,” he said.
The Socialist leader later said his party would also pull out of the run-off vote in the Grand-Est region, where it trailed the FN by ten percentage points on Sunday.
On Monday, the Socialist candidate in the Grand-Est, Jean-Pierre Massenet, said he would maintain his bid in the second round, setting the stage for a showdown with the party leadership.
Sarkozy says no to anti-FN alliance
Before the vote, Socialist Party members had voiced the possibility of forming an alliance with Les Républicains, headed by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, to block FN victories in key regions by running under a joint ticket in the second round.
However, speaking Sunday evening, Sarkozy reiterated that he was firmly against an alliance, while also confirming that Les Républicains would not be following the Socialists’ lead in withdrawing from certain regions to stop the FN from winning.
Instead, Sarkozy said, politicians needed to listen to the message voters were sending in abandoning the two main parties.
“The verdict of the French voters is clear. It is a message we need to listen to,” he said. “It is a new sign of a profound aspiration of the French people to see things change in this country. They clearly signalled their profound exasperation.”
Sarkozy’s stance provoked a scathing response from Cambadélis.
“Tonight, the extreme right is threatening many regions. Yet, the party that called itself ‘Les Républicains’ said no to a united front against (the extreme right),” he said.
“History will be severe against those who say ‘better the extreme right than the left’. This shows that the left is the last defence against the extreme right.”it
For Hollande, Sunday’s vote was a low point in what has been a turbulent presidency from almost the day he took power, in 2012, with his approval ratings consistently low.
The French president did see an improvement in his ratings thanks to his handling of last month’s terror attacks in Paris. But the events of November 13 also served to boost the FN, with Le Pen’s linking of the attacks to France’s immigration policy striking a chord with many voters.
However, Socialist senator Hélène Conway-Mouret told FRANCE 24 that her party can expect to improve its score in the second round by taking votes from smaller leftist and green parties.
“This is the first round. One has to remember that the FN may be ahead because they have gathered all the votes they can get,” she said.
“But there is a second round and they have no reserves. In the next few hours there will be lots of discussions and certainly the Socialist Party will be talking to its allies.”
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
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