The anti-immigration National Front party suffered a sweeping defeat in today’s second round of regional elections in France. Exit polls show that the party failed to gain control of a single region, despite having polled in first place in six out of 13 regions during the first round of elections last week. Turnout was higher in the second round of elections, with over 58 percent of voters casting a ballot, compared to only around 50 percent in the first round. However, there are indications that Socialist voters in some regions supported conservative candidates in order to prevent the National Front from making gains. According to early polls, the Socialist party has gained control of at least three regions and the conservatives of at least five others.
The results are a triumph for France’s Socialist and conservative parties, but ultimately the fact that France’s center-left and center-right had to informally rally together to defeat the National Front underlines the party’s strength. The National Front has redefined French politics, moving some conservative politicians to adopt more right-wing positions while ultimately motivating voters who generally vote for the Socialist party to support conservative candidates. Nicolas Sarkozy, a former president and the current leader of the conservative Les Republicains party, has taken a tough public stance on refugees and immigration, opposing government plans to take in refugees partly in an effort to attract voters drawn to the National Front. Regardless of the outcome of today’s regional elections, with presidential elections coming up in 2017, the National Front will continue to be a major player in French politics, both electorally and in terms of its impact on France’s major parties.