France’s far-right National Front loses a round, but they will be back
The FN had looked especially likely to win in either the north, where Ms Le Pen was running, or the south, where her 26-year-old niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen was the candidate. In the end, neither could summon a majority. But they were defeated only after the left pulled out and urged its supporters to vote for centre-right candidates in a last-ditch effort to block the FN from gaining power.
Exit polls suggested that, of the two Le Pen candidates, Ms Maréchal-Le Pen pulled off the better result. She secured 44% of the vote in the south, losing to Christian Estrosi, a former centre-right minister. In the north, Ms Le Pen won 42%, a couple of points better than she managed in the first round, but not enough to defeat her centre-right opponent Xavier Bertrand, another ex-minister.
Three early lessons can be drawn from the results. The first is that the French Socialists’ strategy for countering the far right, a challenge for many mainstream parties across Europe, has paid off. Manuel Valls, the Socialist prime minister, ordered his party’s candidates in three regions to withdraw. (One refused.) Mr Valls mixed this tactical move with unapologetic scaremongering, warning the French that “civil war” would break out should the FN win.
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