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French parliamentary elections 2012

Mélenchon fails to face down Le Pen in French election first round

Reuters/Pascal Rossignol
3 min

Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon gambled and lost by standing against far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the deprived constituency of Hénin-Beaumont. He came third in the first round of the French parliamentary election, leaving Le Pen facing Socialist candidate Philippe Kemel.

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Le Pen, standing for the Front National (FN), was in the lead with 42.36 per cent, Kemel won 23.50 per cent and Mélenchon, representing the Left Front, 21.48 per cent.

Parliamentary elections 2012

The result, which means that Le Pen will face the Socalist candidate in the second round, is a personal blow to Mélenchon, who chose to pursue Le Pen to Hénin-Beaumont after making her the principal target of his presidential campaign.

Some opinion polls had predicted that he would win but, as is often the case, they underestimated the FN vote and, in this case, also that of President François Hollande's Socialists.

Le Pen claimed that the result showed that Mélenchon had failed to convince working-class voters and accused her rival of running a “noisy, aggressive” campaign.

Addressing his supporters in the rain, Mélenchon told them “it’s normal that you should be disappointed” but promised to return to fight again in the region. He called on his voters to precent Le Pen being elected in the second round.

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Turning down offers to find him a safer seat in the Paris region, the hard-left candidate chose to stand in Hénin-Beaumont, where Le Pen had already gone through to the second round in 2007, in an attempt to confront the flight of disillusioned working-class voters to the far right.

The Socialists, who were defending the seat and controlled the local council for many years, were undermined by political disillusionment and a corruption scandal.

The second round is likely to be a hard fight and could see Le Pen elected to the National Assembly.

Lawyer Gilbert Collard, who has recently joined the FN, could also be elected in a southern constituency, where he was first placed in a contest that could see three candidates in the second round.

If FN candidates are elected this year, it will be the first time the party has won seats in the National Assembly since 1986.

Marine Le Pen won nearly 18 per cent in the first round of the presidential election this year, allowing to claim that her party is France's third party.

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