Why the French are more anti-immigrant than Germans: A look at the numbers
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – France’s far-right National Front (FN) won the presidential election in a surprise victory over conservative challenger Francois Fillon on Sunday, with the party claiming victory in the most decisive election since World War Two.
The election also comes after months of uncertainty over the party’s future.
The National Front is the most anti-immigration and anti-EU party in Europe, and has been blamed for a series of deadly attacks on police, judges and politicians since a June 6 attack on a satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead.
The FN won 10.5 percent of the vote in the first round, and the second round saw Fillon win the votes of nearly a quarter of the electorate, according to unofficial results released on Sunday by the Paris-based election commission.
Fillon, who had campaigned on a promise to build a wall on the Mediterranean to stop migrants, said he would build a fence around France’s southern frontier with Italy and Italy’s northern tip.
He has been a staunch opponent of free movement of people.
The country of just over 1.4 million has seen an increase in asylum applications and attacks on public transport, with a recent spike in attacks on mosques and other targets.
More than 1,300 people were killed in the attacks last year, including an estimated 50 people who died in an explosion at a mosque in the southern city of Marseille.
In his victory speech, Fillon said he was committed to fighting “the menace of radicalisation and Islamic terrorism”.
“We must show to the French people that we are a nation of immigrants, we are the first in Europe to admit immigrants, that we want to keep the borders open and to be a friend to all of you,” he said.
Follies, a weekly French newspaper, reported the results, with Fillon saying he had secured 6.3 percent of votes in the election, beating his rival’s 5.8 percent.
Fillon also won the support of the party founded by the late French Prime Minister Jean-Marie Le Pen and his son, Marine, who are seen as rivals in the presidential race.
The poll comes a day after Fillon told a parliamentary commission that France needed to stop allowing migrants into the country.
He also criticised the EU for not doing enough to stop “the criminal networks that have exploited the migrants and their victims”.
The vote was the biggest in France since the second world war and came as Europe grapples with the rise of populist leaders who say they want to change the way countries operate.
Fels anti-euro stance is at odds with the majority of French voters, who want to remain part of the European Union.EU leaders have agreed on measures aimed at helping to contain the spread of far-left and populist parties across the continent.
But Fillon’s support for an EU-wide common asylum policy has drawn criticism from the far right.
In a post on his Facebook page, the FN said the vote showed that the far-Right is back.
“This is the time to return to France,” FN leader Marine Le Pen wrote.
“France is back and it will be back for ever.”
Fillon has also faced criticism from members of his own party, including former presidential candidate Francois Fondé.
He told Le Monde newspaper on Sunday that Fillon would not be president.