The far-right French National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, reportedly achieved historic gains in regional elections on Sunday, taking first place in 6 French regions, putting it in the lead overall.
The anti-immigration, anti-European party scored around 28% of votes nationally and came first in 13 regions, according to final estimates from the French Interior Ministry.
The elections were the first since November’s terrorist attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people in the French capital. A second phase of regional elections is due on 13 December.
The National Front, which takes hard-line stances on Islam, security and national identity, was the only political party to make solid gains in the wake of the Paris attacks.
The governing Socialist Party came third in the elections, while the Republican Party, led by Nicolas Sarkozy, came second.
Marine Le Pen personally achieved more than 40% in the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, the poorest region in mainland France, with a population of six million. Calais has been in the news in recent years for the growth in numbers of refugees camping there, many seeking entry to the United Kingdom.
Le Pen announced that her party was now “the first party in France” and that the nation as a whole could “hold its head up again.” She added that the party would treat the result with humility and “a profound sense of responsibility”.
Her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, 25, is an MP and rising star within the party. She achieved 40% and could win control of the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, which includes some of the richest areas in France. Marion commented, saying that the “old system died tonight.”
Recently, she said Muslims could not be French unless they “yield to the manners and our way of life” inherited from France’s Christian traditions.
Meanwhile, socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls suggested a coalition between the left and the centre-right to face the far-right, saying that the National Front is “anti-Semitic and racist”.
The Socialist Party said it will withdraw from two regions to prevent a run-off victory by the National Front.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday that the Republicans party will not withdraw any of its candidates after the ruling Socialists withdrew two candidates.
One Socialist candidate refused to withdraw from Sunday’s run-off vote, even if it gives an advantage to his National Front rival, reported the state owned France 24. The Socialist party announced that its candidates in the northern Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie and southern Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur have been withdrawn in the face of huge National Front progress.
The socialist party will tell its supporters to vote for candidates of the conservative Republicans opposition party.
French political analyst Gespard Estrada said that the Paris attacks did not have any direct impact in the results of the regional elections.
“Since 2012, there has been a consistent trend in favour of the National Front in every election – parliamentary, local, European, and now regional,” Estrada told Daily News Egypt.
“However, it seems likely that the issues of security and terrorism have given a boost to the National Front campaign strategy,” he added.
Estrada thinks that the results could have an impact on the French debate concerning the refugees crisis.
Regarding the impact on the war against ISIS, he added “I don’t think that the war against ISIS can be compromised by these results,”.