France to alter voting system

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PARIS (Reuters) - The French government said yesterday that it plans to introduce laws to tighten up the electoral system after local polls allowed the extremist National Front to gain a toe-hold in mainstream politics.

But the minister for parliamentary relations, Daniel Vaillant, warned that legislation alone would not halt the Front, branded by its opponents as a throwback to Hitler's Nazis "That will happen through political policies, " she said.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities throughout France on Saturday to protest against the Front and the regional conservative leaders who this month turned to the anti-foreigner party to keep hold of power in their areas.

The deals came after the Front won a record 15.5 per cent of the vote in regional elections on 15 March, giving it the role of kingmaker in a number of councils.

Five regional presidents, all from the centre-right Union for French Democracy party (UDF), accepted Front backing to keep their majorities - a major breakthrough for the far-right party which had previously been shunned as a political pariah.