Local Elections - 23 March 2014
Exit polls from the first round of France’s local elections on 23 March 2014 show that the far-right National Front (FN) party has made historic gains, highlighting popular discontent with President François Hollande and his left-wing allies. According to pollster BVA, FN gained seven percent – a high national tally for the far-right group, as it fielded candidates in 596 out of some 36,000 municipalities across the nation. FN leader Marine Le Pen called the election “exceptional” for the party. Opposition conservatives saw a major gain, with 48 percent of the Sunday vote, leaving Hollande’s Socialists and their leftist allies behind with 43 percent, BVA said. “The National Front has arrived as a major independent force - a political force both at the national and local level," Le Pen told TF1 television. The daughter of former FN head Jean-Marie Le Pen scored 18 percent in the 2012 presidential election.
Hollande's ruling Socialists and their allies scored 42 percent of the total vote in local elections on 30 March 2014, trailing opposition conservatives on 49 percent, a TV exit poll by survey group BVA showed. BVA estimated that over 100 towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants would swing to conservative rule, a result that would largely wipe out Socialist gains made in the last town hall elections in 2008. The National Front, which fielded candidates in a minority of municipalities across France, scored a total nine percent of the vote in the second-round run-offs, BVA estimated.
Hollande appointed popular interior minister Manuel Valls as premier, replacing Jean-Marc Ayrault who resigned over the Socialists' losses in municipal elections. Addressing the country in a short televised speech, Hollande said a key objective for the new government would be pursuing the so-called "responsibility pact" to lower employers' costs in order to spur job creation. But in a new move, he also said he would lower taxes and worker contributions and said France would have to persuade EU partners to take into account its efforts to boost the economy when examining its commitments to Brussels.
Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party had almost torn itself apart in a leadership battle and Sarkozy had been the subject of numerous judicial investigations. The huge swing to the right in France in the municipal elections was an expression of huge dissatisfaction with president François Hollande and his Socialist-led government. Of France’s major towns, only Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg held on to their Socialist administrations and the Socialists were utterly humiliated in Marseille.
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