French far right gains in elections

France’s far-right National Front conquered a symbolic northern town in the first round of municipal elections on Sunday and led in some other cities, drawing calls by the governing left and rival right to stop the anti-immigration party’s advance.

The governing Socialist Party, which was victorious in 2008 voting, was losing ground to the conservative party, reflecting the deep unpopularity of President Francois Hollande, who has failed to cure the struggling economy and unemployment rate hovering at more than 10 percent.

The National Front won an outright victory that made Steeve Briois mayor in Henin-Beaumont, party leader Marine Le Pen’s blighted northern outpost — once a thriving coal mining town of 26,000 people. Briois took 50.26 percent of the vote, eliminating the need for a final round on March 30.

Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called for right and left to join to stop the National Front in towns it might win next week, saying that “all forces have the responsibility to … stop” the far right’s march. A so-called “republican front” of left and right worked together in 2002 to defeat National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen when he vied for the presidency

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