Nicolas Sarkozy has boosted his chances of a comeback in 2017 after his center-right party scored a crushing victory in French local elections.
Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National made sweeping gains in council seats but looked likely to fall short capturing one or two councils for the first time, according to The Independent.
The ruling Socialists lost about half of the 61 departements or counties they had controlled, including traditional left-wing bastions in the industrial north, the greater Paris area and President Francois Hollande’s own fiefdom of Correze in the southwest.
Sarkozy’s Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) and its allies were in course to win at least 60 of the 98 departements in mainland France.
After fighting a controversial hard-right campaign, which verged on Islam-bashing, Sarkozy said the electorate had “massively rejected the most archaic Left in Europe” and set his movement on course to regain power in national elections in two years.
Sarkozy, the country’s president from 2007 to 2012, fought an uncompromisingly hard-right campaign.
His key campaign promise was to abolish separate meals for Muslim (and Jewish) children when pork is served in school canteens.
Giving Muslim children a choice was an attack on France’s “secular” state, he said.
Sarkozy returned as UMP president last September. He wanted to pile up a big score to improve his chances in the first ever center-right presidential “primary” which will be fought next year.
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