France: National Front ‘at gates of power’ - PM

THE French prime minister has warned that far-right party the National Front is “standing at the gates of power”, after its leader, Marine le Pen, topped a presidential opinion poll.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Picture: Getty
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Picture: Getty

The survey showed Ms Le Pen would win in the first round of a presidential vote – and would win a second-round run-off against under-fire incumbent François Hollande if a vote were held today.

France’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, said the National Front was now “at the gates of power” and that his own Socialist Party had to counter the threat by acting and speaking differently. He made his comments at a gathering of left-wing politicians in Bologna, Italy.

It is the first time the controversial daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen has been in such a position. The poll also showed the National Front beating both main parties, Mr Hollande’s Socialist Party and the centre-right Union for Popular Movement.

Back in May, the National Front emerged as France’s largest party in the European Parliament elections, with 25 per cent of the vote.

The latest poll comes at a time when Mr Hollande is registering unprecedented levels of unpopularity. He has also been the subject of damaging revelations in a memoir penned by his former girlfriend, Valerie Trierweile.

The president’s legacy has been thrown into doubt following her allegations that he “doesn’t like the poor”. Mr Hollande has rejected the claims, but they have merely added to his already plummeting popularity.

The next presidential election is not due to be held until 2017, but, given Mr Hollande’s failure to tackle unemployment and France’s wider economic woes, many in his party feel that time is running out to regain the trust of the electorate.

Unemployment figures out in July showed that 3,424,400 people were out of work – a new record and further bad news for the Socialist government.

Mr Hollande’s unpopularity, along with rising ill feeling in France around the issue of immigration, has led to increasing numbers of the electorate supporting the far-right National Front.

The party has organised rallies in Calais, where large numbers of migrants have been attempting to board ferries to Britain.

Left-leaning supporters of the migrants’ plight have organised counter-rallies and police have had to keep the groups apart in an effort to avoid clashes.

Despite the increasing popularity of the National Front, which has had a public image change under Ms Le Pen’s leadership, the two mainstream parties will be confident of their ability to keep her from taking power.

There is an unspoken agreement in French politics that supporters of both mainstream parties will support the other in the second round of presidential voting to keep the far right from gaining power.