France's ruling Socialist Party expressed dismay Monday after two far right candidates came within a whisker of claiming 50 percent of the vote in a local by-election. In a result that reflected the extreme right's rising popularity, the representative of the Front National (FN) got 40.4 percent of votes in the first round of Sunday's by-election in the southeastern town of Brignoles while an independent extreme right candidate won 9.1 percent. The result came in an area where the far right has traditionally done well but it was nevertheless seen as symbolically significant.
The extreme-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is winning the youth vote in the buildup to the first round of voting, as she attempts to style herself as an "anti-elite" candidate railing against immigration and defending the soul of small-town France.
The leader of the Front National has the support of 26% of voters aged 18 to 24, according to a survey for Le Monde, with the Socialist Francois Hollande on 25%, Nicolas Sarkozy on 17% and the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon on 16%.
THE RETURN OF THE FRONT NATIONAL (France, opinion) Ten years after Jean-Marie Le Pen made it through to the second round of the French presidential elections, will his daughter be able to lead the party towards the same kind of success? By Emma Brooks