The far-right Front National party has dramatically increased its share of the vote in France’s local elections.
Exit polls from last night show that the party now has 7% of the vote – a massive gain considering it only has representation in 600 of the 36,000 local French constituencies where voting took place.
The FN’s electoral success means that the balance has tipped in favour of the centre-right opposition by 48% compared with just 43% for the ruling Socialist party.
FN President Marine Le Pen, the youngest daughter of long-time leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, said: “The Front National has arrived as a major independent force – a political force both at national and local level.”
The exit polls also show unprecedented levels of voter apathy with 34% of the population choosing to abstain.
The French economy has been in the doldrums for the past five years with growth rates stagnating and unemployment reaching eleven per cent. There are now 350,000 French citizens living permanently in London – the same population as France’s fifth largest city, Nice.
“We are in the middle of trying to get the country back on its feet, said French agriculture minister Stephane Le Foll. “Things are not easy.”