France Swings Sharply to the Right

In the aftermath of the Paris attack last month, I predicted that right-leaning parties like Marine Le Pen’s National Front would gain significantly in French opinion polls, and that Le Pen might well become the favorite to be France’s next president. I’m not a fan of Le Pen or her National Front party, but when the rest of France’s political establishment, including the so-called conservatives, is so consistently weak-minded, it should not surprise us that French voters would respond to Le Pen’s clarity and directness. It is much like the sentiment propelling Donald Trump here.

France is having regional elections today, and the early returns and exit polls suggest a big win for Le Pen. From the BBC:

France’s far-right National Front (FN) appears to have made big gains in the first round of regional elections, estimates show.

They put the FN ahead in at least six of 13 regions in mainland France.

The elections are the first electoral test since last month’s Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed.

The centre-right Republicans party led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to be in second place ahead of the governing Socialist Party.

Exit polls from Sunday’s vote predicted that the FN had won 30.8% of the vote, followed by Mr Sarkozy’s Republicans on 27.2% and President Francois Hollande’s Socialists with 22.7%.

I didn’t realize Sarkozy (who was such a disappointment in office) was still hanging around. But there’s no mistaking this result as anything other than a brutal repudiation of the Socialists.

BBC analyst Hugh Schofield adds:

The message from the first round of France’s regional elections is simple and unequivocal – once again the far right has come out on top.

For the third time in a year and a half, Marine Le Pen can legitimately say that her National Front is the country’s most popular party.

It is an astonishing performance for a party that until very recently was regarded as beyond the pale.

The Paris attacks will have played a part in this but it would be wrong to ascribe Ms Le Pen’s triumph solely to fears of terrorism.

Her party has been on a steady upward slope for four years. The problems that worry voters are as much economic and social as they are security-related.

I suspect we may hear a similar analysis here if Donald Trump wins some big early primaries.