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France wakes up to 'new age of extreme right'

Ben McPartland · 24 Mar 2014, 11:09

Published: 24 Mar 2014 11:09 GMT+01:00

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“The new age of the extreme right”, was the headline in France’s Nouvel Observateur magazine the day after France’s National Front party scored five percent of the vote in the first round of the local elections.

With the National Front (FN) set to win a record number of mayorships around the country in next week’s second round, most headlines in France on Monday focused on the question of whether the country's traditional bipartisan split between the Left and Right had been broken up by Marine Le Pen's party.

The Nouvel Observateur notes that despite previous National Front successes in the polls, Sunday’s results were a “historic achievement” by Marine Le Pen and co.

“The FN appears more and more clearly as an alternative, capable of taking responsibility and managing the affairs of a community and this is the greatest success of Marine Le Pen,” the paper wrote.

The paper attributes Le Pen’s success to the “fatigue” around the French political system that is increasingly shunned by voters.

The country’s biggest selling daily Ouest-France referred to the National Front as the “third political force” in the country.

Local daily Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace said it was “without doubt the end of the left-right political system, that was more or less closed”.

The Sud-Ouest newspaper said the National Front had “upset the stage” and the results sounded the “death knell of bipartisanship”.

In Le Parisien Matthew Croissandeau said “The surge of the FN will permanently change the electoral landscape” in France.

Writing in the left-wing daily Liberation Eric Decouty wrote: “These results are a defeat for politics. For the UMP and the Socialist Party, the time has come to give a little credit to the political debate.”

Centre-left Le Monde newspaper also asked the question about the significance of the National Front’s showing, asking whether it represented a “political earthquake” (see above).

But the newspaper suggested Marine Le Pen was wrong to suggest it was the end of two-party politics in France at a local level, stating that the Socialists have for a long time been used to forming alliances with other political parties.

But Le Monde does accept that Marine Le Pen has become "a serious problem for both the UMP and the Socialist Party".

Much of the press coverage also focused on the poor results for the Socialist Party.

"Francois Hollande must draw the conclusions from a vote that is clearly addressed to him," the left-leaning Liberation daily said, describing the results as a "slap" in the face for the embattled president who is suffering record unpopularity against a backdrop of near-zero growth and high unemployment.

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“The strong push by the FN is a clear rejection of the ruling party,” wrote Le Figaro (see above).

Le Parisien’s front page headline simply read: “Punished” alongside a photograph of François Hollande.

"A monumental rout, a deep rejection and a bloody disowning," read the editorial inside the front page.

With the crucial second round of elections this coming Sunday we can expect more of the same headlines next week.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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