Establishment halts National Front advance – for now…

(FILE) A file picture dated 12 February 2012 of Marine Le Pen, leader of French far-right political party National Front (FN) arrive on stage to deliver a speech during a meeting at the Palais des Congres, in Strasbourg, France.ANSA/YOAN VALAT

Marine Le Pen’s National Front has achieved its best ever election results, despite a second round coalition of establishment parties denying the FN control of any regions.

A desperate effort by the French establishment parties of the old left and right prevented Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN) from winning control of any regions in today’s second round elections, despite the astonishing success of the FN in topping the poll in six regions of France last weekend.

The party leader celebrated “the inexorable rise, in election after election, of the national movement. By tripling the number of our regional councillors, the FN will from now on be the primary opposition force in most of France’s regional councils.”

Marine Le Pen added that the true division in politics today was “not left versus right, but globalists versus patriots”.

The FN leader was defeated in her Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region by conservative candidate Xavier Bertrand who polled 57.2% to Marine Le Pen’s 42.8%. One positive effect should be that over the next couple of years Marine Le Pen will be able to remind working-class voters in her region that its conservative rulers were put into power by the “socialist” leadership.

An even closer result was achieved in the FN’s old stronghold of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, where the leader’s 26-year-old niece Marion Maréchal Le Pen also lost to a socialist-backed conservative by 54.8% to 45.2%.

In the new eastern region of Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine, another conservative defeated a strong FN campaign despite the fact that (unlike in the two regions just mentioned) the socialist candidate refused to withdraw.  Here one of the FN’s five vice-presidents Florian Philippot remained in second place with 36.1%, ahead of the socialist’s 15.5% but behind the conservative’s 48.4%.

Conversely in another three-cornered fight in the southern region of Languedoc-Rousillon-Midi-Pyrénees, fellow FN vice-president Louis Aliot lost to a socialist by 43.1% to 35.6%, with the conservative trailing in third place.

And in the closest result of the second round – another three-cornered fight in the Burgundy region – local MEP Sophie Montel of the FN slipped from first to third place with 32.4%, behind the socialist victor on 34.7% and the conservative on 32.9%!  The socialist came from third place last week to win the second round.  The explanation (here as across the country) was partly a rise in turnout, in this case from 48.2% to 58.2%, with previously apathetic voters responding to the media and establishment’s appeal to block the FN, and partly the transfer of votes from those who had backed small leftist or green parties in the first round.

Similarly in the Central / Loire Valley region (which includes the town of Dreux where the FN had its first electoral breakthrough in 1983), FN candidate Philippe Loiseau slipped from first to third place, with 30.0%, and the socialist again won the second round after a third-place last weekend.

Across the whole country (with 97% of votes counted) the FN polled more than 6.8 million second round votes (up from 6.1 million last weekend) – roughly 27.5% of the nationwide vote.  Turnout rose from 49.9% in the first round to 58.5% in the second.

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