France's anti-immigrant National Front (FN) scored gains in first-round town hall elections on Sunday and took control of a former Socialist bastion as voters punished President Francois Hollande and his left-wing allies. The elections in thousands of constituencies across France were the first nationwide voter test for Hollande, who came to power in May 2012 and has seen his popularity slump to record lows for failing to rein in unemployment.
Marine Le Pen appears to be on a roll. A local by-election win in mid-October left her socialist and conservative competitors in the dust, and she's attained record-breaking popularity: 42 percent of recently polled voters have a positive opinion of her, compared to 35 percent for Socialist President Francois Hollande. And polling in France for the next European Parliament vote put Le Pen's National Front party in first place. But how could it be that a far-right party is threatening to outflank traditional major parties in a key European Union country?
As she surges to new heights in opinion polls, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen has threatened to sue journalists who describe her party as far right. “They put us in the same bag as [mass murderer Anders] Breivik and [the Greek neo-Nazi party] Golden Dawn. They shake up the bag and try to give us a filthy image,” Ms Le Pen said. From now on, she warned, she would sue any journalist who waged “linguistic war” on her party. It is not just her cleaned-up version of the National Front which should never be described as far right, she said.