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France

Sarkozy's UMP expects a boost from local elections

National Front leader Marine Le Pen leaves a polling booth in Henin-Beaumont
National Front leader Marine Le Pen leaves a polling booth in Henin-Beaumont Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Polls opened Sunday in France for the second, and decisive, round of voting in local elections. While the ballots are for local representatives, the election has become a referendum on the mainstream political parties themselves.

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Voters are choosing 4,108 local council members across the country who will make up 98 councils.

This is a new system, whereby each district elects one male and one female councillor, ensuring a complete gender balance nationwide.

Smaller parties, on both the right and left, usually find a lot of support in these local elections, as voters show their dissatisfaction with the governing parties. Indeed many people have been very disappointed with the Socialist Party's leadership.

President Francois Hollande's approval ratings were at historic lows of 19 per cent just a few months ago, and despite improvements in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, he wasn't able to build on this momentum, with slow economic growth and high unemployment proving too persistent.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, has been capitalising on Hollande's unpopularity saying that "for those who want to get rid of the Socialist Party, the National Party is the key".

In the first round last week, the Socialist Party came in third place, beaten by both former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) party and the far-right, anti-immigration party   The National Front.

Yet the very fact that the National Front didn't come first last week, as many had predicted, has given both the Socialist Party and the UMP a boost that they hope to build on.

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