French far right surges to lead in Europe vote

Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — France’s far-right National Front party emerged from Sunday’s European Parliament election as the country’s leading political party, partial results showed, a victory that the prime minister called a political “earthquake.”

The Interior Ministry said the anti-immigration National Front captured 26 percent of the vote, nearly six points ahead of its closest rival, the conservative party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, which had 20.6 percent.

The partial but official results had a one-point edge on polling firms whose projections gave the National Front 25 percent of the vote.

Polling firms showed high-profile candidates in the party, including party leader Marine Le Pen, comfortably winning their races for some of France’s 74 allotted seats in the European Parliament.

“The sovereign people have spoken … acclaiming they want to take back the reins of their destiny,” Le Pen said, calling the results “the first step in a long march to liberty.”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the election results were “more than a news alert.”

“It is a shock, an earthquake,” Valls said. “The moment we are living through is serious, very serious, for France and for Europe.”

Valls’ governing Socialists were trailing in a humiliating third place, according to the partial results, largely reflecting the deep unpopularity of President Francois Hollande.

The National Front won a record 11 towns in March municipal elections and two seats in French parliamentary voting in 2012.

The party campaigns against immigration, particularly from Muslim countries. It also opposes the European Union and the euro currency, blaming them for France’s high unemployment and social woes.

The EU results mean the party, which held three seats before, will drastically raise its profile in the parliament, which sits in Brussels and Strasbourg, France. It wants to create a powerful group among like-minded European parties.

The Interior Ministry put the provisional turnout at 43 percent of voters, slightly higher than in the 2009 vote.

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