Le Pen holds the key to victory for left

French forced to vote in a power vacuum as the NF threatens to split right's vote, writes John Lichfield in Paris

The National Front leader would like to humiliate President Jacques Chirac and mess around the European Union by assisting the left to win the second round of the French election on Sunday.

In theory, he has it in his power to do so. The election is balanced so finely that the Front's first-round voters hold the destiny of France, conceivably of Europe, in their hands.

Jean-Marie Le Pen could advise NF voters at a giant rally in the Paris suburbs tomorrow night to swing left where their own candidates have been eliminated. However, to do so would jeopardise the chances of a handful of NF candidates, including his own daughter, Marie-Caroline.

The Front scored its highest ever total - 15 per cent of the vote - last Sunday in the first round of a French parliamentary election. A record number of NF candidates, 133, including Marie-Caroline Le Pen, west of Paris, survived into the second round this weekend.

Mr Le Pen's instinct is to urge FN voters to vote for the left in the more than 400 constituencies in which their candidates have been eliminated. The normal pattern would be for 40 per cent of FN voters to switch to the centre-right, 20 per cent to the left and 40 per cent not to vote at all.

If Mr Le Pen could disturb this pattern, he might tip the election towards Lionel Jospin, the Socialist leader, consigning President Chirac to five years of co-habitation with the left, humiliating the centre-right and creating more growing-room for the NF. A left victory would also throw into doubt the timetable for Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), which Mr Le Pen opposes.

But the left is the main threat to the FN in the half-dozen or so constituencies where it has a chance of winning seats in the National Assembly. If Mr Le Pen is saying "Vote left", it becomes awkward for FN candidates in these seats to urge centre-right voters to vote for the Front to "Keep out the left".

The seats in question include Vitrolles-Marignane, near Marseilles, where Bruno Megret, the de facto number two of the FN, and Mr Le Pen's insubordinate rival, is in a neck-and-neck, second round run-off against the outgoing Socialist MP. To lose this race would cause little grief to Mr Le Pen.

However, the FN also has hopes of winning two seats in Toulon in straight run-offs with left-wing candidates. And then there is Marie-Caroline Le Pen. She topped the first round poll in Mantes-la-Jolie, in the suburban departement of Yvelines, but the Socialist candidate, who came third, could win on Sunday if she inherits all the first-round Communist voters.

The FN leader made several speeches during the first-round campaign in which he said he would prefer the left to win the election. But he was disowned in an unprecedented public display of dissension, not only by Mr Megret but by other, more loyal, FN leaders.

At a moment of triumph for the FN, Mr Le Pen's position within the party has been weakened by the rise of Mr Megret and by his own decision not to run in any constituency (for fear of losing while Mr Megret won).

Tomorrow night he will probably back his instinct and say "Vote tactically left", while trying to make exceptions of the seats the NF could win.

Conversations in the Le Pen household after Sunday will be interesting if the formidable Marie-Caroline loses to her Socialist rival by a couple of hundred votes.

Life and Style
life
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
news
Environment
Fungi pose the biggest threat globally and in the UK, where they threaten the country’s wheat and potato harvests
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Primary supply teachers needed in Bury St Edmunds

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers requi...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher - requ...

Science Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Calling all science teachers! Ra...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone