Front National wins regional polls
The far-right Front National won the first round of France's regional elections on Sunday, with both the conservatives and the Socialists trailing behind. The Front National's success is a result of the terrorist attacks in Paris, some commentators conclude. Others stress that the rise of the Front National must be seen in a historical context.
Voters dominated by a fear of terror
The election result was determined solely by the terror, complains the centre-left daily La Repubblica: "It was the emotions triggered by the bloodbath on November 13 that made the Front National France's strongest party yesterday. The 130 victims of that Friday night translated into that 28.64 percent of the vote at the ballot that gave Europe's biggest xenophobic party a leading position in one of the West's most important political societies. The elections, which are normally influenced by employment figures, the economy and other classic social issues were instead determined solely by security: or in other words, the fear of terrorism and the Islamist threat. This is clearly the reason why a third of those entitled to vote backed the Front National. The party is the one that most embodies the anger, resentment, hatred and fear that terrorism provokes."
Far right has a long tradition in France
The appeal that far-right ideas exert on large sections of the French population dates back to the late 19th century, comments the centre-left daily The Guardian: "The FN is capitalising on a shrewd strategy of appealing beyond the disfranchised middle class and workers' families hit by the economic crisis to a wider constituency of people who feel the republican model of laïcité, France's brand of secularism, has come under threat from the growth of Islamic radicalism. But the ascendancy of the FN must also be seen in the larger historical context of France's resilient far right, from the 19th-century Boulanger movement to second world war Vichyism and, later, the Algerian colonial war."
Revolution in the party landscape
If the Socialist want to prevent the Front National from winning they will have to withdraw their own candidates from the second round in certain regions to give the conservatives better chances, the liberal business paper L'Opinion believes: "Such a situation is extremely rare, because generally the haggling between the two rounds has been confined to negotiations within the respective political camps. ... The new situation is a result of the huge pressure exerted by the rise of the far right and the enduring presence in the French electoral landscape of a third political force - which has now become the first in order of importance. ... This new situation shatters all the conventions of past election nights. It leaves the losers - on the left and on the right - without a strategy. And without a voice."
Bombs haven't helped Hollande
Neither the state of emergency in France nor the bombs in Syria can prevent a debacle for the ruling Socialists in the regional elections, comments the conservative daily La Vanguardia: "The fierce reaction to the terrorist attacks, the declaration of a state of emergency the likes of which we haven't seen since the Algerian War, and the bombing of the IS militants' positions have done little to help the Holande-Valls tandem in the elections. Scenes of bombardments in Syria thousands of kilometres away in which civilians are also being killed do nothing to counter the alarming conviction that there will be more attacks because the threat emanates from French suburbs and Belgian cities. The Socialists were able to slightly improve their catastrophic poll ratings but it wasn't enough to get their way in the elections."