French Conservatives Defeat Far Right in Tight By-Election

France 24, June 24, 2013

France’s conservative UMP party narrowly defeated the far-right National Front in a by-election on Sunday, with candidate Jean-Louis Costes winning the seat vacated by disgraced Socialist MP Jérôme Cahuzac following a tax evasion scandal.

France’s main centre-right UMP party on Sunday won a by-election that had been seen as a test of a recent revival in the fortunes of the far-right Front National (FN), officials said.

The UMP’s Jean-Louis Costes took just under 54 percent of the vote in a run-off against the FN candidate Etienne Bousquet-Cassagne in a contest which followed the resignation of the country’s budget minister in a scandal that has severely dented the standing of the Socialist government.

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The Socialist vote in last weekend’s first round of the by-election collapsed to 23.5 percent, down from a share of just over 61 percent when Cahuzac stood in the 2012 general election.

The defeated Socialist candidate had called on left-wing voters to turn out to vote for the UMP in order to prevent the FN, which won 6.4 million votes in the first round of last year’s presidential election, securing a third seat in the National Assembly.

The call appeared to have been followed sufficiently to give the centre-right a comfortable margin of victory, and former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, one of the UMP’s leaders, said the victory would be welcomed by “all republicans”.

But Fillon also acknowledged the recent advances made by the FN on the back of the Cahuzac scandal and France’s economic problems were of concern for all mainstream parties.

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