Over the weekend, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front Party did not win control of any of France’s 13 metropolitan regions in the second round of voting in local elections.
But that’s not because the party isn’t growing in popularity or because French voters are rejecting its xenophobic campaign messages. Were it not for some tactical maneuvering on the part of her Socialist opponents, who withdrew candidates from three regions, Le Pen, who aspires to be elected France’s president in 2017, and her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, would have almost certainly won at least two regional presidencies.
In the first round of voting last week, National Front led in six of the 13 regions. Despite not capturing any regions after the second round, it did garner more than 6 millions votes, a sign of the party’s ascendency into the French mainstream and a distressing signal for the political establishment in France.
“Nothing can stop us,” Le Pen crowed on Sunday. “Thank you for having defied the orders issued from the palaces of the Republic.”
Saw several of these Front National posters on the Périphérique this weekend. "Choose your suburb: vote Front! pic.twitter.com/RAtYRdGN0c— Sedulia Scott (@Sedulia) November 29, 2015
The National Front was leading in the polls ahead of the elections because of France’s anemic economy and record unemployment. And in the wake of last month’s attacks in Paris, the party, which is heavily nationalist, historically anti-Semitic, and runs an anti-immigrant platform, tripled its presence on regional councils.