French far-right on rise


Marine Le Pen's National Front (FN) is set to emerge as France's pre-eminent political force at the regional elections on December 6 and 13.

According to a poll for Metronews and LCI, the party may garner 30 per cent of the vote, ahead of Nicolas Sarkozy's conservatives, Les Républicains (LR), currently at 28 per cent, and President François Hollande's Parti Socialiste (PS), which lags at 22 per cent. Other surveys tell similar stories.

Clearly, current concerns about jihadist terror attacks, the fate of Middle Eastern Christians and the refugee crisis are boosting FN as the "national identity" party. And Ms Le Pen's efforts to distance herself from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and to turn FN into a bona fide democratic party, seem to be paying off. When Mr Hollande decreed a state of emergency in the wake of the November 13 massacres, Ms Le Pen refrained from criticism and granted him her full support.

In addition, the electoral law is something of a boon to FN: regional elections are based on proportional representation across two ballots, with a bonus for the winning list. If Ms Le Pen gets a strong showing on the first ballot, she may attract conservative or absentee voters on the second.

Regional power is now an important factor in France, especially after last year's reform that converted 20 regions into just 13. Control of one or several regions would definitely enhance Ms Le Pen's stature in national politics.

● French comedian Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala was jailed for two months this week for questioning the existence of the Nazi gas chambers and calling Adolf Hitler a "sweet kid" during a stand-up performance. He was found guilty of inciting racial hatred.

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