FN routed in French regional elections

The anti-immigration National Front party has been routed in French regional election run-offs, despite dominating the first-round vote, according to projections from three polling agencies.
FN routed in French regional elections

Party leader Marine Le Pen and her niece lost their bids to run two French regions in elections, seen as an important test for the anti-immigrant party.

Polling agencies Ipsos, Ifop and TNS-Sofres projected that the opposition conservatives and governing socialists won control of France’s 13 regions.

They showed Ms Le Pen won around 42% of the vote in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, and rival conservative Xavier Bertrand about 57%.

Ms Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, was projected to win about 45% in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region. Conservative Nice mayor Christian Estrosi was projected to win about 55%.

Ms Le Pen had been riding high after extremist attacks and a wave of migration into Europe. The party came out on top in six of France’s 13 newly drawn regions in the first-round vote a week ago.

The once-powerful Socialist Party, which currently controls all but one of France’s regions, came third in the first round and pulled out of key races in hopes of keeping the National Front from gaining power. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s party came in a strong second, and hoped to make substantial gains in the runoff.

The polling agencies base their projections on actual vote count in select constituencies. Official results are expected early today. Turnout figures were 7% higher than for the previous regional elections in 2010, with 50.4% of those eligible to vote casting ballots by 5pm, three hours before polls were to close in big cities .

Candidates tried to lure to the ballot box the nearly 50% of those who failed to vote in the first round. It appeared to have been decisive.

Winning control of any region would have been an unprecedented boost for the National Front, and especially for Ms Le Pen’s hopes for the presidency in 2017. The atmosphere in the hall in Henin-Beaumont where National Front supporters gathered to watch election results was grim, in stark contrast to a week earlier, when Ms Le Pen won more than 40% of the vote.

The region where she was a candidate includes the port city of Calais, which is a flashpoint in Europe’s migrant crisis this year, and suffers high unemployment.

The National Front has racked up political victories in local elections in recent years, but winning the most seats in an entire regional council would have been a substantial success.

Ms Le Pen tried to put a positive spin on the loss, celebrating the party’s increased number of seats on regional councils, saying they had tripled.

She celebrated the “total eradication” of the left, which had controlled all but one of France’s regions before this vote and were projected to lose several.

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