France: Conservatives beat National Front in local polls

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Analysts also expect Conservative victories in second round.

ANKARA (AA) – The centre-right UMP party and its allies have come first in local elections in France, according to official results from the Interior Ministry.

The Conservative allies took 32 percent of the vote Monday, while the far-right National Front got 25 percent.

The ruling Socialist party took 22 percent in the elections which covered 101 counties.

In the second round on March 29, there will be a runoff between the Conservatives and the FN in many districts, but analysts predict the Conservatives, who have often won at this stage in the past, would do so again.

– Important defeat

Jerome Fourquet, an analyst with Ifop, said in a television interview: “Victory is not assured to the Conservatives, but they have marked a major point.”

The victory signals an important defeat for the National Front, as it had expected a resounding victory in the elections in order to boost it into a national election win that would have given it a place in government.

Now, it looks unlikely the National Front will have a place in any ruling coalition.

UMP leader Nicolas Sarkozy said the outcome of the first round “showed that voters know the National Front is not the solution.”

– ‘Left no longer exists’

The victory also means that it is likely that Sarkozy will be a presidential candidate again after previously occupying office for seven years.

“The conditions for a massive swing back to the right and the centre are in place,” he added.

While his comments may not necessarily be true, it is clear that the ruling Socialist party has a tough challenge ahead if it wants to get back in the running.

“The left no longer exists,” commented analyst Gerard Grunberg, in an interview with France TV.

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