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France

French far-right march through Paris amid rising popularity

media National Front supporters gather outside the Opéra in Paris on May Day. Reuters/Charles Platiau

Hundreds of supporters of the far-right National Front have marched in Paris as the party rides a recent wave of popularity.

The National Front, which stages a march in Paris on May 1 every year to celebrate the folk heroine Joan of Arc, is currently doing well in opinion polls on the back of Europe’s economic crisis and discontent with France’s socialist-led government.

Party leader Marine Le Pen told supporters the party is making its presence heard.

"Even if you are not yet in power, you see how that is changing, you see how our ideas are entering public debates, the hearts and minds of people, and the polls as well. We are moving forward, and France and its people are moving forward with us," she said.

Le Pen, a fervent critic of the European Union, said France "is sinking into an absurd policy of endless austerity... because it's about always saying yes to Brussels, to Berlin of course, and to financial moguls in all circumstances."

The march comes as the National Front is gaining strength just as Francois Hollande's government struggles to turn around France’s struggling economy.

In one recent poll, when asked who respondents would vote for if a presidential election were called immediately, former president Nicolas Sarkozy came first and Le Pen second, far ahead of Hollande in third.

Since his election last May, Hollande's approval rating has fallen faster and further than any other president's since the founding of France's Fifth Republic in 1958.

As a result, the National Front says it has gained more followers, including Socialists unhappy with their government, though they have not provided any figures.

The far-right party is looking to municipal elections next year, where it hopes to gain control of several towns or cities.

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