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09 October 2013

Strong National Front showing in French by-election alarms Socialists

The ruling Socialist Party took the resounding win of the extreme right-wing National Front with 40.4 per cent of the vote in the canton of Brignoles as a 'very serious warning', and urged voters to block the far-right candidate in the second round.

As the Guardian reports, France's far-right National Front (FN) knocked out left-wing rivals and won twice as many votes as the centre-right UMP party in the first round of a local election in southern France, a sign of growing popularity for the anti-immigrant group.

National Front candidate Laurent Lopez took 40.4 per cent of the vote in the canton of Brignoles, near Toulon, late on Sunday versus 20.7 per cent for the UMP candidate and 14.6 per cent for the communist. A canton is a constituency for a department council.

The National Front's score shows its current popularity can translate into strong ballot scores and amounts to a challenge to President François Hollande's Socialist Party for mayoral posts in municipal and European elections next year.

The Irish Times added that the Socialists did not contest the election and the Communist and Green candidates did not qualify for the run-off next Sunday. Two previous elections for the councillor’s post had been annulled, and abstention was high - Le Parisien reports an abstention rate of 66.7 per cent.

The French left has now lost eight legislative and three cantonal by-elections in the past year. Jean-François Copé, leader of the UMP, said Sunday’s vote confirmed "the electoral collapse of the left in our country. Yet again, all the left-wing candidates have been eliminated in the first round of a by-election."

Ms Le Pen has worked assiduously to "normalise" the FN since she succeeded her father as leader in 2011. A TNS-Sofres-Figaro poll published at the weekend shows she is tied for the rank of France’s third-most popular politician. In a poll by the Nouvel Observateur magazine, 24 per cent of respondents said they could vote for the FN.

The second round of elections is on 13th October.

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