The French Far Right
How Le Pen Could Lose

The Front National’s victory in the first round of local elections this weekend made headlines everywhere—including in our pages. But a new poll suggests that the French establishment strategy for defeating the FN—its “firewall”—may be formidable in the second round. In the wake of the Socialists’ decision to withdraw their candidates from the second round and urge their voters to support the center-Right, the polls spell trouble for the FN. Reuters reports:

In the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Le Pen would win 47 percent of the vote while former minister Xavier Bertrand with the conservative Republicains would get 53 percent, the TNS Sofres-OnePoint poll showed.

In the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, Le Pen’s niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen would get 46 percent against 54 percent for Christian Estrosi, the conservative mayor of the Riviera city of Nice.

The National Front’s gains in the first round came largely at the expense of the ruling Socialists, who have called on their candidates to pull out of the elections in the two regions as well as an eastern region to increase the chances of the National Front losing.

The poll found that 77 percent of left-wing voters in the two regions planned on voting for the conservatives and only 14 percent expected to abstain from voting.

Following the weekend’s results, we noted that, “Historically, France’s centrist parties have counted on [the FN’s] ugliness to push voters towards them, betting that on the second round of ballots (which in this case come next week) voters would gravitate to whichever of them remained as the only acceptable alternative to the FN.” It looks like that bet may hold again, at least in some places. Keep an eye on two things as the process progress: how bad the breaches of the firewall are, and whether the centrist parties appear to learn anything from the FN’s gains in the first round this time around.

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