French 'shock' as far right dominates regional polls
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Newspapers across France's political spectrum expressed “shock” on Monday following the victory of Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front (FN) in Sunday’s first round of regional elections.
The anti-Europe and anti-immigration FN scored just over 28% of the ballot, claiming a lead in six of 13 regions in mainland France.
The party was ahead of the conservative mainstream led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy (27%) and the ruling Socialists (23.5%).
No one party scored the 50% needed to secure outright victory in the first round. The second round will take place this coming Sunday.
“The FN has become France’s first party,” commiserated regional daily Le Journal de Haute-Marne. “It is a protest vote against the (Socialist) establishment, but also against a moribund (conservative) opposition.”
The French electoral system has tended to keep the far right from power, with mainstream voters rallying against the National Front in second rounds.
But the prognosis for next Sunday’s second round is less clear.
The Socialist Party has already instructed its candidates in three regions to pull out of the run-off contest in a bid to bar the FN from power.
But Sarkozy, who leads the conservative Les Républicains, has refused to give similar instructions in regions where the Socialists have a better chance of beating the far right.
“Nothing would be worse for the right to be seen to be cosying up with the Socialists in a ‘Republican soup’,” the Figaro said on Monday.
Other newspapers, however, expressed the need for voters to support candidates they would otherwise abhor in order to keep Marine Le Pen’s party from the gates of power.
Left-leaning Libération said that “anyone who values the Republic should understand that we face the worst possible situation … we must do anything to avoid it”.
Communist daily Humanité expressed the same sentiment: “Wherever the FN threatens, vote against it without any hesitation.”
'Go out and vote'
Catholic newspaper La Croix blasted those who failed to vote (just under half the electorate): “All voters should ask themselves: ‘Is this an acceptable situation?’ Whatever the answer to that question is, go out and vote (in the second round).”
Eastern daily Republicain Lorrain also challenged its readers to get engaged in the second round: "The FN has won the first round, but has it secured next Sunday’s vote? Nothing is certain.”
The FN's repeated linking of immigration with terrorism has also helped it climb in the polls since the gun and suicide bombing assaults in Paris on November 13.
When it emerged that at least two of the attackers had entered Europe posing as migrants, the FN, which has been working to get rid of its image as a racist and openly anti-Semitic party, aggressively pushed a message of "we told you so".
As the party hailed its victory Sunday, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted of anti-Semitic comments, tweeted a video of Christian Estrosi, the conservative rival to Marechal-Le Pen in the southern PACA region, wearing a Jewish skullcap and dancing with Jewish men – a scene apparently recorded at a bar mitzvah or other celebration.
"Take heart at a time of ill fortune," he said sarcastically in a tweet accompanying the footage, which has since been removed.