France’s far-right National Front was projected on Sunday to win European parliament elections in France with around 25% of the vote, with President François Hollande’s Socialists in third place behind the centre-right UMP, three exit polls showed.
If the National Front score is confirmed, it will be the first time that the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party led by Marine Le Pen has won a national election.
The UMP was projected to score around 21% while the ruling Socialists were seen scoring 14%, down from the 16.5% they won last time in 2009.
Survey group Ifop said the abstention rate was 59%, lower than many pollsters had expected.
From the beginning of the European election campaign Marine Le Pen was insistent that Sunday evening would finally see the Front National emerge “France’s number one party”.
Election pundits scorned her pretentions; the opinion polls confirmed them.
As the first exit polls were announced at 8pm on Sunday, cheers and a rendition of La Marseillaise broke out among the party faithful gathered at the FN headquarters in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, appeared to prove Le Pen right.
The first estimations suggested the far-right FN had done even better than expected, polling an historic 25% of votes in the European elections and becoming France’s No1 party on the European stage.
It was the second slap in the face for Hollande’s administration in as many months after a disastrous showing in local elections in March.
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