“I am afraid for my country, I’m afraid it will be smashed apart because of the Front National” Manuel Valls said in a programme on French television and radio on Sunday evening.
Citing his “anxiety”, he called on people to make the effort to vote in the upcoming local elections, amid predictions that as many as 60% of eligible voters might abstain.
A poll published on Monday (by Odoxa for French radio station RTL) suggests that the far-right populist party will win 31 %, the highest number of votes in the first round of elections, on 22 March.
The same poll suggests former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s mainstream right wing UMP party would garner 29% with the ruling Socialists coming third on 20%.
In the second round, both the UMP and the Socialist party could benefit from the ballots of any voters keen to prevent FN victories.
“The role of the Prime Minister is not to be afraid, but to act and to get results,” said Brice Hortefeux of the UMP, a former interior minister during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency.
“It is the failures of the government which fuel the rise of the Front National”, he added.
Emmanuelle Cosse, leader of the EELV, an environmentalist party, said the correct response to the Front National was not “with fear”, but rather by “political battle”.
The EELV held three ministerial posts as junior partner in a coalition government with the Socialists after François Hollande’s election to the presidency in 2012 but the party walked out of the government when Valls was chosen as Prime Minister in March 2014.