France: Far-right defeated in municipal election's second round

Issue 

On July 5, the racist, far-right National Front (FN) was narrowly defeated in the second round of the Henin Beaumont municipal by-election.

In response to the strong showing of the FN in the first round, left-wing parties and the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) formed a Republican Front and supported Daniel Duquenne of the Miscellaneous Left (DVG).

Duquenne won the position of mayor with 52.4% of the vote in the second round, with the FN's Steeve Briois coming close.

In the first round on June 28, the FN won 39% of the primary vote in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France. The DVG had come a distant second with 20%.

The Socialist Party (PS) whose fiefdom the municipality had been, received only 17% as punishment for the scandalous conduct of the incumbent PS mayor — now in jail facing charges of embezzlement.

Tensions were high as the results were announced. The FN, which gained an additional 1500 votes between the two rounds, declared it would contest the results before the administrative tribunal. It cited unfair pressure on voters from election material that predicted an end to state subsidies in the event of a FN victory.

Tear gas was thrown into a crowd of celebrating Duquenne supporters. Later that evening, a showdown near the FN headquarters between pro and anti-FN crowds was forcibly averted by police.

A media release from the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) welcomed the defeat, but warned the FN remained a danger.

It said: "The FN manipulates people's anger and disgust at the town's mismanagement and the pro-capitalist policies of the [major] parties … to advance its own racist, popularist and anti-social ideas."

The NPA reminded voters that some members of the newly elected mayoral team had contributed to the disastrous situation the town now faced. It urged working people to rally around a program that would break with the current system and defend their interests.

The NPA and the French Communist Party (PCF) issued a joint statement the following day, foreshadowing a joint left list for the 2010 French regional elections, comprising the PCF, the NPA, the Left Party, and Workers' Struggle.