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French far right hopes to take control of 15 town councils on Sunday

Marine Le Pen (L) with the FN's leader in Hénin-Beaumont Steeve Briois
Marine Le Pen (L) with the FN's leader in Hénin-Beaumont Steeve Briois Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

France's far-right Front National (FN) hopes to win control of 15 local councils in Sunday's second round of municipal elections, its leader, Marine Le Pen, said Friday.

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The FN has already taken control of one town, Hénin-Beaumont in the depressed north of France, in last Sunday's first round and has lists of candidates standing in 323 towns and cities in the second round.

French media have hailed its score last Sunday as a "breakthrough" with higher votes than predicted in the polls in key cities such as Metz and Marseille, although the hard-left Left Front claims that press bias has played down its score of 10.71 per cent in local council areas with more than 1,000 residents.

The abstention rate was a record 37 per cent.

Now the party hopes to reach its target of taking control of about 15 local councils, Le Pen told Le Monde newspaper on Friday.

The far-right leader defended the "neither right nor left" line that she has espoused in her effort to clean up the party's image, claiming that the FN wins votes from disillusioned supporters of both the ruling Socialist Party and the mainstream right opposition, the UMP.

"This is Year Zero of a great patriotic movement, neither right-wing nor lef-wing, which bases its opposition to today's political class on the defence of the nation, the rejection of ultraliberalism and Europeanism and is capable of transcending old differences to raise the real questions: are we in a vision national or post-national?" she said.

France's future political division will be between the Front National and the "UMPS" - her amalgam of both leading mainstream parties - she told Le Monde.

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