Hollande facing KO after far-right Euro triumph

Hollande facing KO after far-right Euro triumph

26th May 2014, Comments 0 comments

The triumph of France's far right National Front (FN) in European elections has left President Francois Hollande fighting for his political life, allies and analysts warned Monday.

A day after his Socialist Party polled a record low of less than 14 percent and one in four voters backed the FN, Hollande was hit by another stinging rebuke from the country's disgruntled electorate.

A poll released on Monday revealed that only 11 percent of voters think he would be a good presidential candidate for the Socialists in 2017.

With his authority crumbling, Hollande also faces the prospect of a rebellion within his party, where a significant minority of deputies blame the government's attempts to comply with the rules of the euro single currency for turning voters against the party and the European Union (EU).

Le Nouvel Observateur, an influential left-leaning weekly, concluded bluntly that: "Hollande no longer has any chance for 2017," and urged the French left to turn its attention to finding an alternative candidate with a better chance of combatting the FN.

A senior Socialist figure told AFP: "Hollande has got to get back on the campaign trail, not to win in 2017 but just to reconvince the French to trust him. You cannot govern a country with 18 percent popularity ratings."

Against that bleak backdrop, Hollande announced that he would address the nation in a televised address at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT).

Sunday's vote marked the first time that the anti-immigration, anti-EU FN had topped a nationwide French poll.

Final results gave the party led by Marine Le Pen just under 25 percent of the vote on a turnout of just over 43 percent.

That guaranteed them 24 of France's 74 seats in the 751-member European Parliament.

The FN's success was also bad news for the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, which was beaten into second place with 20.8 percent of the vote and 20 seats.

- Worrying reading -

The Socialists polled a humiliating score of just under 14 percent and detailed analysis of the voting patterns made for worrying reading for them.

More than 40 percent of workers who voted backed the FN, Le Pen's party also scored higher amongst the young and its success was broadly spread across the countries, with only the major urban centres broadly resisting the appeal of its anti-immigration, anti-EU message.

"Where the FN was strong before, it has got stronger," said Jerome Fourquet of the polling institute IFOP..

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the stinging reverse demonstrated the need for the EU to put more emphasis on policies to bolster growth and jobs across the bloc.

But Valls, who was appointed after the Socialists suffered a similar rout in municipal elections in March, also insisted that the administration would stick to its programme of economic reform and its commitment to meeting budget deficit targets set by the EU.

"Our only mission is to continue our work to repair the country. If we don't do this, we would not live up to our responsibilities," Valls said, warning that France could become "ungovernable" if the government embarked on a radical change of direction.

- Unease among Arabs, Jews -

Marine Le Pen, 45, has been credited with significantly broadening the appeal of a party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen and long tainted by association with his multiple convictions for inciting racism and denying the holocaust.

She said after Sunday's vote that the French people had demonstrated they no longer wanted to be ruled from Brussels.

"Our people demand only one type of politics - a politics of the French, for the French and with the French," she said.

Such language and the FN's current momentum generates unease among France's large immigrant population, which is mostly drawn from former colonies in Arab north Africa, and has also been cited as a factor in a recent upturn in Jewish emigration to Israel.

"It is worrying. We don't know where the country is going," said Nonda, a Moroccan-born local council official in the Paris suburb of Chatou who did not want her surname to be used.

"People have lost all confidence in the other parties but there is also racism behind all that," she added.

"They say unemployment is the fault of immigrants but it's not true. Immigrants do the jobs the French don't want to do."

The FN's score was 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 in 2017.

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

© 2014 AFP

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