French Far-Right in Last Push as Poll Predicts Election Defeats

PARIS (Reuters) -

France’s National Front (FN) prepared for a last push for regional election votes on Thursday as an opinion poll showed tactical voting will keep it from power in two main target regions, even though it topped a first round vote nationally.

In a media interview ahead of a Paris rally of the party faithful later in the day and Sunday’s decisive second-round vote, the far-right party’s leader Marine Le Pen was upbeat about her prospects.

“I hope to be elected. A good portion of the key to the result is in the hands of those who abstained,” Le Pen told BFM News. “We will show what we are able to do.”

In the first round last Sunday, the FN won more than 40 percent of the vote in the north, where Le Pen is standing, and in the southeast, where her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen leads the party list.

Fears over immigration and the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people last month, disaffection with mainstream politics and frustration at high unemployment were among the factors driving the best performance in its history.

Since the first round however, the third-placed Socialist Party has pulled out of the race in both those key regions, urging its supporters to back Nicolas Sarkozy’s The Republicans Party to keep the FN out of power.

A poll on Wednesday night showed voters heeding that call.

In the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Le Pen would win 47 percent of the vote while Xavier Bertrand, a former minister with the conservative The Republicans, would get 53 percent, the TNS Sofres-OnePoint poll showed.

In the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, Marechal-Le Pen would get 46 percent against 54 percent for Christian Estrosi, the conservative mayor of the Riviera city of Nice.

The poll found that 77 percent of left-wing voters in the two regions planned on voting for the conservatives with only 14 percent expected to abstain from voting.

Sunday’s vote gives would-be candidates for the next presidential election in 2017 one of their last opportunities to gauge their chances.

The poll for newspaper Le Figaro and LCI channel was conducted online Dec. 7-8 with 803 respondents in both regions.