Political centre wrestling with Le Pen
France's Socialist Party plans to withdraw its candidates in three regions for Sunday's second round of the regional elections in a bid to strengthen the conservatives and prevent another victory for the Front National. An alliance between conservatives and Socialists would send the wrong signal to voters, some commentators criticise. Others believe such a step is the only way to stop the rise of the far right.
Alliance against Front National a mistake
It is a mistake on the part of the Socialists to refrain from having their own candidates run in three regions, the conservative daily the Financial Times writes with an eye to the second round of the regional elections in France: "Mobilising the 'Republican' front in this way would be a mistake. Come the 2017 presidential election, a united republican position may be justified if Ms Le Pen reaches the final round. Politicians, however, must beware of feeding Ms Le Pen's long-running narrative that France's two main parties are rotten and have no other interest than maintaining their grip on the establishment. The two main parties must also resist trying to head off the FN by apeing its xenophobic tone."
Republican front must stop Le Pen
Only if the main parties pursue a joint strategy can they prevent the Front National from winning the presidential elections in 2017, the centre-left daily El País warns: "The success of the Front National augurs times of authoritarianism, sovereigntism, anti-European sentiment and xenophobia in the heart of Europe. Not necessarily because of the regions, which have far less influence in France than in Spain, but because the other parties may gradually move closer to the far right, whether over security, immigration or fear of globalisation. ... Today Sarkozy and Hollande face a major challenge if they want to hold on to the presidency in 2017. Le Pen is on the verge of taking over the office of the head of state. Unless a republican front can stop her in her tracks, that is."
Get non-voters back on board
Only the voters who didn't cast their ballots on Sunday can prevent a victory for the Front National (FN) in the second round of the regional elections, writes the centre-left daily Berliner Zeitung: "A lot of people see the rise of the Front National as an experiment that could go very wrong. If they risk it anyway, it is because in their eyes all the other options have already failed. … Those who have lost faith in Hollande and Sarkozy but who haven't fallen for Marine Le Pen's fake harmony have turned their backs on all three parties. In other words, 20 million French people weren't able to find a party on Sunday for which they felt it was worthwhile to go to the polling station. As depressing as this may sound, it also offers hope. If the millions who remained silent on election day can be persuaded to back a laborious but realistic period of crisis management, the Front National would soon be back where it belongs: on the political fringes."
Victory has repercussions for all of Europe
The Front National's election victory will have consequences for all Europe, the liberal daily De Standaard predicts: "In France an era is drawing to an end in which the left and right kept each other in check in their struggle for power. … The consequences are tangible far beyond its borders. Europe is at a crossroads: further integration or fragmentation. And faced with these two options the EU is drifting towards the latter. … In their eagerness to save their own skins the leaders of the imperilled major parties once again threaten to disappear behind Europe's broad back. They are depicting the failure of the EU as something for which they themselves bear no responsibility, and thus giving legitimacy to their arch-enemy's thesis. In this way they are enhancing the illusion that withdrawing into one's own shell is a good response to the fear and anger of the lost voters."