France: Far right gains in municipal election

July 4, 2009

The far-right French National Front (FN) won 39% of votes in the first round of the Henin Beaumont by-election in Northern France on June 28. The by-election, in the Nord Pas-de-Calais department, was called after the incumbent Socialist Party (PS) mayor was charged with corruption.

The area had been a PS stronghold for the past 40 years. Yet voters have punished the previous mayor and his team for allegedly embezzling four million Euros. The PS only won 17% of votes. The Miscellaneous Left polled second with 21%.

The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) recieved 2.4% of the primary vote. It has called on all voters to vote against the FN in the second round.

On June 29, NPA candidate Severine Duval said: "The National Front is not an opposition party; it sidetracks [electors'] anger in order to attack freedom and democracy.

"A victory for the National Front would be the worst thing for Henin Beaumont's workers and poor", she said.

The PS is trying to cobble together a combined list of all other parties to oppose the FN in the second round.

The FN has not won control of a French municipal council since 1995. In the recent European elections it dropped from seven seats to three.

The strong showing for the far-right in Henin Beaumont can be largely credited to widespread disgust for the corruption of the previous mayor. Yet the decline of the PS follows its poor results in the European elections.

While the conservative Union for a Popular Movement won 29 seats, the PS managed won just 14 — on a par with the Greens. The NPA recieved just under 5% of the vote and so missed out on a seat.

A remarkable feature of the European elections was the high abstention rate. It reached nearly 60% in France, and 80% in poorer areas, according to a TNS-Sofres poll. The same poll found that the rate was 70% among youth. In the Henin Beaumont by-election about 40% of voters abstained.

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