French Jewish group urging all-out effort to stop nationalist party

(JTA) — Following far-right gains in the opening round of France’s local elections, a Jewish group called for voters and candidates to block further nationalist successes.

The call to action by the Union of Jewish French Students, or UEJF, came on Sunday, when Marine Le Pen’s National Front party advanced to the second and final round of voting in more than 200 municipalities.

“The situation is grave,” UEJF President Sacha Reingewirtz said in a statement. “Never before has the National Front been poised to rule in so many cities; never before has voter turnout been so low.”

Four in 10 voters did not go to the polls in the first round of elections.

The National Front, which is led by the daughter of party founder and honorary president Jean-Marie Le Pen — he has multiple convictions for Holocaust denial and incitement to hatred against Jews and other minorities — won outright in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont and is leading in eight other municipalities, including Avignon and Perpignan.

In those cities, “candidates who came in third should drop out of the second round in favor of those who came second,” Reingewirtz wrote. “We will mobilize with force this week in various French cities to prevent the election of National Front candidates and call on citizens to vote massively against hatred.”

The center-right UMP Party fared best on Sunday, winning more than 46 percent of the country’s votes. The governing Socialist Party garnered nearly 38 percent of the vote.

The second round of local elections will be held on Sunday.

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