After striking gains in the first round of elections, France’s far-right National Front, or FN, has fallen short in the second round.
The anti-immigration party failed to win any regions, according to exit polls..
The FN had taken the lead in six of France’s 13 regions during the first round of voting earlier this month, as NPR’s Alexandra Starr reported then:
“If the party is able to solidify those gains in the second round of voting … it will position the National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, as a formidable candidate in the 2017 presidential election.”
The first-round dominance was an eyebrow-raising achievement for a party once viewed as a fringe group. Winning control of one region — let alone six — would have been a first for the FN.
Before the election, NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley spoke with disaffected French citizens who said they’d welcome a National Front victory in their region.
“We are sick of the socialists and the conservatives,” Bernadette Gira, of Marseille, told Eleanor. “They just change back and forth between each other, and nothing changes. So why not try something new? I would like for things to be like they used to be, when people could go out in the street and feel secure and earn a good living.
The National Front advocates strong worker protections, long-term unemployment benefits and a nationalist trade policy, Eleanor notes.
Political scientist Nicole Bacharan told NPR’s Linda Wertheimer that the recent terror attacks in Paris also helped influence the party’s rise.
“It’s quite comparable to Donald Trump in this respect. It seems that anything that happens helps the National Front,” she said. “That party has been portraying Muslims as a whole as a problem, immigrants as a threat. And obviously, the attacks in Paris have played into that.”
Bacharan told NPR that the first-round results mobilized many French voters, who might otherwise have stayed home, to vote to keep the FN out of power.
The country’s Socialist Party also withdrew from several regions and urged supporters to back Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative party instead, in order to block the National Front from gaining victory.
Le Pen told her supporters that the setback wouldn’t halt “the inexorable rise, election after election,” of the National Front, Reuters reports.