France: Public warming to National Front policies

FRANCE’S far-right National Front, buoyed by improving poll numbers, is aiming for big gains in municipal elections next year and the top spot in the European parliament ballot, its leaders said at the party’s annual convention.

Marine Le Pen attends the FN summer congress in Marseille, southern France. Picture: AFP

The two 2014 elections, the first since the Socialists came to power in 2012, are set to dominate the political agenda in the eurozone’s second-largest country for the next nine months.

In a strategic shift for a party long content with winning protest votes in national polls, the National Front says it wants to rule the country one day and start building a local base in the March municipal ballot – ambitions that are a growing headache for mainstream parties.

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“Our strategy is to win as many municipalities as possible and get hundreds of city councillors elected to be there for the long run. It’s a condition for winning at the national level and the presidency,” party leader Marine Le Pen told reporters at the weekend convention in 
Marseille.

The party has a long way to go before it could be included in a government, but opinion polls show it is gaining ground as both the Socialists and the main conservative opposition UMP agonise over how to counter the Far Right and appeal to voters.

More than a third of French voters say they are sympathetic to the ideas of the party, whose agenda focuses on immigration, Europe and security and on the failures of mainstream politicians, a survey showed earlier this week.