PARIS (Mar. 20)
The extreme right-wing National Front won a local race for the first time Sunday in the second round of French municipal elections.
As a result, one of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s nationalist followers will become mayor of Saint-Gilles, a 10,000-inhabitant city in southern France. And Le Pen himself will sit on the Paris City Council.
The National Front also won some 800 seats on the municipal councils of 143 localities, scoring over 30 percent of the total vote in several cities.
Though the party fell short of making a national mark and also failed to conclude alliances with any of the mainstream right-wing parties, it scored enough of a victory to continue playing a major role in French politics.
The National Front ran in only some 200 cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants. Most of its votes were wasted as the mainstream right-wing parties refused its offers for joint lists or coalition arrangement.
Observers stress, however, that if the National Front does as well in the June elections for the European Parliament, it will be able to send some 30 deputies to the Strasbourg-based assembly.
Seats in the European Parliament, which is the legislative body of the 12-nation European Community, are allocated on a strict proportional basis.
STRONG SHOWING IN SOUTH
The National Front advocates the expulsion of foreigners from France, particularly Arabs and Africans. Party leader Le Pen denies he is anti-Semitic. But his crude jokes about gas chambers and the Holocaust have antagonized may Jews.
In Sunday’s voting, Charles de Chambrun, a minister under former President Georges Pompidou, won the Saint-Gilles City Hall with 39.53 percent of the vote. In the second round, a plurality is sufficient to elect the mayor.
The National Front also did well in several other cities in southern France, scoring 35 percent of the popular vote in Cagnes-sur-Mer, close to 30 percent in Perpignan and close to 25 percent in Toulon.
In Nice, a tourist paradise and the capital of the French Riviera, the National Front scored close to 20 percent and won several key seats on the City Council.
Le Pen, who ran in one of the Paris districts, lost several points since the first round of voting on March 12. But he still managed to score over 11 percent of the vote, enough to give him a seat on the City Council.