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France

Front National draws a blank in French regional polls

media French National Front political party leader and candidate Marine Le Pen delivers a speech after results in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region for the second round of regional elections on Sunday. Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

France's far-right Front National failed to win a single region in elections on Sunday with its leader Marine Le Pen losing to the centre-right alliance in the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie.

Despite taking a lead in six of the 13 regions in the first round of elections last weekend, the anti-immigration FN came a cropper in the second round.

Le Pen lost to the Republicans candidate Xavier Bertrand after polling around 42 per cent as against 58 per cent for Bertrand.

The other high profile FN candidate to lose was Le Pen’s niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen who couldn’t repeat her first round performance in the Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur region. The 26-year-old polled 45 per cent while her rival from the Right Christian Estrosi got 55 per cent of the votes.

Polls this week had predicted that both FN candidates will lose in their respective regions, despite both taking over 40 percent in the first round.

The Socialists had pulled their candidates from those regions and told their supporters to back former president Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative Republicans.

Meanwhile, according to the estimates, both the Socialists led Left and the Republicans led Right have won five regions each while the results of the remaining three are awaited.

Among the notable winners include French defense minister Jean Yves Le Drian who triumphed in the northwestern region of Brittany.

Speaking after the results, Prime Minister Manuel Valls French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that the danger of the far-right remained despite the National Front not winning a single region.

"The danger of the far-right has not been removed, far from it," he said.

The FN has topped European and local polls over the past two years. It controls around 11 towns across the country.

But it often struggles in the second round of elections -- it lost 535 of 538 second-round duels with the Republicans in local elections this year.

Valls had earlier said he had "no hesitation" in urging voters to back the Republicans to keep the FN from power – as they did in 2002 when voters switched to Jacques Chirac in a presidential run-off against Jean-Marie Le Pen.

France's regions have recently been enlarged and control key areas such as transport, schooling and local business support.

Meanwhile, speaking after the results, Le Pen defiantly claimed that nothing can stop the party now. "By tripling our number of councillors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France."

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