Le Pen's daughter in National Front victory

Mainstream parties rush to prevent far-right from seizing control of council

The French political establishment scrambled yesterday to try to block a significant electoral breakthrough by the daughter of the veteran far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Marine Le Pen, 40, and her running-mate topped the poll on Sunday night's municipal by-election in Hénin-Beaumont, an impoverished former coal mining town near Lens in the Pas de Calais. Having won nearly 40 per cent of the votes cast in the first round, the Le Pens' National Front party is in a strong position to capture its first town hall for seven years in the run-off ballot this Sunday. It would be the first time that the ultra-nationalist, anti-immigrant, anti-European party has taken control of a town council in the depressed industrial areas of northern France. Victory would also strengthen Mme Le Pen's chances of inheriting, and attempting to modernise the NF, when her 81-year-old father retires in the next two to three years.

All other French parties, from the far left to President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre right, appealed yesterday for the creation of a "republican front" to block Mme Le Pen this weekend. They appealed to all voters to support the independent, left-wing candidate, Daniel Duquenne, who came second in the first round with just over 20 per cent of the votes.

In theory, this should be enough to defeat Mme Le Pen and prevent her local chieftain, Steeve Briois, from taking over the Hénin-Beaumont mayor's office. A scattering of warring left-wing candidates and the moderate right captured more than 55 per cent of the vote on Sunday.

However, attempts to create "republican fronts" against the NF have backfired in the past. The party is never happier than when it can argue that its moderate opponents are all the same, all "rotten" and in permanent alliance against "the people".

This argument will have especial resonance in Hénin-Beaumont, which has been run by left-wing parties for more than 70 years. The by-election became necessary when the Socialist mayor, Gérard Dalongeville, was arrested in April on multiple accusations of corruption and favouritism. It provided an electoral windfall for Mme Le Pen, a town councillor who has been nursing the local constituencies in national and European parliamentary elections.

The youngest and most political of Jean-Marie Le Pen's three daughters, she has the overt support of "papa" in the struggle to succeed him as the head of the NF. She is, however, detested by the hard-line, xenophobic and socially conservative wings of the party because she is regarded as too liberal (pro-abortion) and too willing to abandon the party's traditional, red-meat racial issues.

A victory in Hénin-Beaumont, where she has campaigned as an anti-EU, anti-globalist populist, would strengthen her case that the NF needs to change its tactics to survive. After reaching 16.9 per cent of the national vote in the first round of the 2002 presidential election, M. Le Pen slumped to 10 per cent in 2007 and his party took only 6.3 per cent in the European elections this month.

The NF captured four town halls in the south and in the Rhône Valley in 1996 and 1997 but lost them all over the next five years through defections, splits or electoral defeats. A victory in Hénin-Beaumont, a town of 26,000 people where the unemployment rate is 20 per cent, would justify Mme Le Pen's hunch that the future of the party lies in depressed former industrial areas, rather than its traditional hunting grounds in the deep south and east.

Hénin-Beaumont, whose last coal mine shut in 1970, closely resembles the areas of Lancashire and Yorkshire where the British National Party, which has links to the French National Front, scored well in the European elections.

The BNP won its first two seats in the 736-member parliament and far-right parties tasted success in countries including Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania and Slovakia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy