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National Front takes one in four votes at top of French exit poll

Leader Marine Le Pen celebrating surge of vote for her anti-immigration, anti-EU party.

Far right party National Front leader Marine Le Pen poses for photographers before addressing reporters at the party's headquarters in Nanterre, west of Paris, today.
Far right party National Front leader Marine Le Pen poses for photographers before addressing reporters at the party's headquarters in Nanterre, west of Paris, today.
Image: Remy de la Mauviniere/AP/Press Association Images

FRANCE SUFFERED A a political earthquake today as the far-right National Front topped the polls in European elections with an unprecedented haul of one in every four votes cast, exit polls indicated.

Average results from five polling institutes pointed to the anti-immigration, anti-EU party led by Marine Le Pen taking 24-25 per cent of the popular vote and around a third – between 23 and 25 – of France’s 74 seats in the European Parliament.

The mainstream right Union for a Popular Movement was beaten into second place with a projected 20-21 percent score and the ruling Socialist Party was left languishing in third place with just 14-15 percent.

The result is the highest score ever obtained in a nationwide election by the National Front (FN) and follows breakthrough gains made by the once pariah party in municipal elections earlier in the year.

As FN leaders celebrated their triumph by demanding the resignation of Socialist President Francois Hollande and the dissolution of France’s National Assembly, senior minister Segolene Royal acknowledged that the far right’s success represented “a shock on a global scale.”

Marine Le Pen, who has been credited with significantly broadening the appeal of a party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, said voters had demonstrated their desire to “reclaim the reins of their own destiny.”

“Our people demand only one type of politics – a politics of the French, for the French and with the French.”

“They have said they no longer want to be ruled from outside, to have to submit to laws they did not vote for or to obey (EU) commissioners who are not subject to the legitimacy of universal suffrage.”

The FN’s score is significantly better than the support of just under 18 percent that Marine Le Pen secured in the first round of the 2012 presidential election and suggests she has a real chance of progressing to the final two-candidate run-off when France next votes for its head of state, in 2017.

Political analysts continue to consider the prospect of an FN president as extremely unlikely but many see French politics being transformed into a three-party system in which Le Pen’s party could wield considerable influence.

The far right party’s resurgence over the last few years has been attributed to the appeal of its core messages on immigration and Europe at a time of record high unemployment and falling living standards for many working and middle class voters.

But the FN has also benefited hugely with widespread disillusionment with the mainstream parties.

Both the UMP, whose former leader Nicolas Sarkozy ran France from 2007-12, and the Socialists have been beset by a series of scandals over alleged corruption or cronyism, as well as being seen by many as having failed to address France’s problems.

- © AFP, 2014

Polls from across Europe show a rise in left-leaning parties>

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