National Front likely to emerge as first force in French local elections

[Blandine Le Cain/Flickr]

Anti-Semitic feeling is stronger among National Front voters than in French society as a whole. [Blandine Le Cain/Flickr]

France’s far-right National Front is set to win more votes than any other party in the first round of local elections next Sunday, a poll showed, with the governing Socialist party coming a very distant third.

The survey by pollster Ifop for Le Figaro has the National Front (FN) taking 30% of the votes. It puts the mainstream conservative UMP – led by ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy – and its centre-right UDI ally just behind with 29%.

François Hollande’s Socialists are forecast to win just 19% of the vote.

The normally low-key departmental elections will this time be scrutinised for signs that Marine Le Pen’s FN has gained enough momentum to reach a runoff round in the 2017 presidential election. It came first in French elections to the European Parliament last year.

The FN is unlikely to get large numbers of its officials elected in the local March 30 runoff. But leading in the first round would build on its previous successes.

Hollande’s Socialists feared they would lose in the second round but that could happen as early as the first round, Ifop’s Jérôme Fourquet said, adding that mainstream right-wing parties had been better at crafting pre-election deals.

Adding the scores of smaller right-wing parties would give conservatives another 5% in the first round, ahead of the FN.

But while other left-wing and far-left parties would bring the left-wing camp a total score of 33%, they would individually score below 10% and so are unlikely to make it to the second round, Fourquet said.

The poll carried out on 11-13 March suggested a 54% abstention rate, as is usual at this election. Less than a third of those surveyed said they could still change their mind. 

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