French anti-immigrant leader Marine Le Pen has boasted that her party was the country’s third political force after a surge in support in the first round of parliamentary elections.
After her strong showing in the presidential vote last month, Ms Le Pen is seeking to cement the far-right National Front’s place in national politics—even though it has not won a seat in parliament since 1986.
Exit polls gave the National Front between 13 and 14 per cent in the first round of the legislative vote on Sunday, far above the four per cent it achieved in the last parliamentary election in 2007.
Under France’s first-past-the-post system, that would at best give it only three parliamentary seats and possibly none at all, although the party will be able to field candidates in dozens of constituencies in next Sunday’s second round vote.
Ms Le Pen nevertheless struck a victorious tone after wiping out her fellow presidential contender, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, in Henin-Beaumont, a rundown former mining constituency near the northern city of Lille.
She scored over 42 per cent of the vote after a bitter battle with the Far Left leader who had decided to take on Ms Le Pen and her party head-on but emerged bruised with only 21.5 per cent and decided to bow out of the next round.
Ms Le Pen claimed the result meant her party—which wants to ditch the euro and battles against what she calls the “Islamisation” of France—is now France’s third political power.
President Francois Hollande’s Socialists and their allies appear poised to take control of parliament acccording to exit polls from the first round, beating the UMP of former president Nicolas Sarkozy with 40 per cent of the vote against about 35 per cent.