It was expected, and now it’s official: France’s Front National (FN) has become that country’s largest party, polling more votes than the combined conservative coalition led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, expressed in the total number of votes cast.
Polling in France’s thirteen regions took place today until 17.00 local French time, and the first estimates were released at 20.00, after only an hour’s worth of counting. It is French tradition for the official pollsters to make estimates based on the first hour’s counting, and all are agreed that the FN has polled the single largest bloc of votes.
The pollsters agree that the FN will end up polling up to 30 percent of the vote, ahead of the conservative Republicans, or “Union of the Right” (LR-UDI-Modem). According to the Ifop estimate released at 8pm French time, the FN took 30.8 percent of the vote, followed by the Republicans, who took 27.2 percent of the vote. The Socialist Party was relegated to third place with 22.7 percent of the votes.
In both regions considered most winnable by the FN, the party appears to have scored a runaway victory. According to TNS-Sofres, Marine Le Pen will get around 42 percent of the vote in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, and Marion Maréchal-Le Pen will get more than 43 percent of the vote in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
The FN is also in first place in four other regions: Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine, the so-called Grand Est of France, where the FN candidate for governor is also the party’s deputy leader, Florian Philippot; Center; Languedoc-Roussillon / Midi-Pyrénées; and Burgundy / Franche-Comté.
Speaking as a guest on the Europe 1 radio network, Philippot said he was “doubly satisfied” with the “historic results” achieved by the FN.
He is well ahead of his rivals with between 35 and 39.6 percent of the vote in his region, he said.
He predicted that the “system advocates” (the conservatives and the socialists) would conduct a fierce campaign against the FN over the coming week to the second round.
“Now they will try to scare voters; this will be the week of fear spreading,” he said. “They will try and make people think that it will be a disaster in the FN areas, but they will not be believed. They said the same things during the 2014 municipal elections, and everyone can see that it is going very well with the FN in the cities we control.”
In her reaction to the result, Marine le Pen said that this “is a great result which we welcome with humility, seriousness and a deep sense of responsibility. We aim to achieve national unity, which the country urgently needs. I call on all voters who feel, above all, that they are patriotic, to turn their backs on the deceptive political class.”
Elections in France go to a second round of voting if no one candidate gets more than 50 percent in the first round. The second round of voting only takes place between candidates who won more than 10 percent of the vote in the first round.
This second round is won by whoever polls the most votes, irrespective of whether they make the 50 percent mark.
Note: all figures as of 20.30 French time. They may change slightly as votes are finalzed.