Nicolas Sarkozy has a lot to be thankful for tonight, after his Union for a Popular Movement party came out first during local polls in France this Sunday.
32% of the votes went to the UMP, with the National Front collecting 25% and the ruling Socialists coming in third with 22%. This last number was the least surprising, as President Francois Hollande has been facing widespread unpopularity in the wake of France’s worsening economy under his watch. “This first round demonstrates the French people’s profound desire for change,” Sarkozy said. “They feel they have been lied to for the last three years,” he added, referring to Hollande’s promise to improve unemployment in the country.
There was still debate over which party would be leading right up until Sunday, with the FN gaining in popularity following its wins in European elections last year. The far-right party is still expecting gains at home however, as the second round of votes on the 29th will include many regions struck with a choice between the UMP and the FN.
However, this is only good news for Sarkozy, who is on track to becoming president again in 2017. While he refused any alliance with the National Front next Sunday, Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls instead became an unusual, though somewhat expected friend. “Even if the score for the FN is much too big, they didn’t come in first place,” he said. “I call on all voters to turn out next week to block the FN in the second round.”
In other words, the UMP is the lesser evil in this scenario, and should be the party to receive socialist support. This is expected to work the other way as well, in regions where the PS earned the most votes. Allegiances will be switching in favour of ‘that which isn’t the FN.’
And given the current national results, this is only looking better for Sarkozy.