Poll rulings back far right

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The Independent Online
The extreme-right National Front was unfairly beaten in a hotly contested city council election last year, France's supreme judicial authority has ruled, and the election is to be re-run. The Council of State found that the winning candidate in Dreux, an ailing industrial town west of Paris, breached electoral rules on combining professional and political activity.

All the councillors of the centre-right majority resigned yesterday on learning of the judgment against their mayor, Gerard Hamel, a Gaullist, precipitating new elections. A similar judgment is believed to be imminent in the case of Vitrolles, north of Marseille, where the incumbent mayor defeated a National Front candidate in the second round of the election, but is now accused of exceeding campaign spending limits.

In both towns the National Front easily topped the poll in the first round, but lost the second round after two weeks of frantic attention from mainstream parties, which staffed expensive centrally-located campaign centres and rushed in floods of posters and literature.

Both they and the media treated the towns as bellwethers of French opinion that could not be "lost". In the event three cities, Orange, Marignane and Toulon - which had not been subject to this treatment - fell to the National Front.

In Dreux, the National Front candidate, Marie-France Stirbois, is now back on the campaign stump, and the Front's leaders are basking in what they call the "degeneracy" of the country's political establishment.

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