The first round of the regional elections in France, held on Dec. 6, confirmed the National Front's position as France's most popular party. Led by Marine Le Pen, the party won first place in six out of France's 13 metropolitan regions. And, though the National Front may not win the second round in all six regions, the election was clearly a milestone for Le Pen.
Notably, the National Front tends to perform better in the regions hardest hit by France's economic crisis. The party won more than 40 percent of the vote in Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardy in the north and in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur in the southeast, the regions with the highest and third highest unemployment rates in France, respectively. It also finished first place in the central and eastern regions where unemployment is above the national average.
It should also be noted that France's two-round voting system will prevent the National Front from controlling all the regions where it performed well Dec. 6. Though the party did receive strong support (more than 6 million votes) in some of France's most densely populated regions, it will not be enough to win the presidency. Current President Francois Hollande received more than 10 million votes in the first round of elections in 2012 and more than 18 million in the second round.
However, opinion polls do show that the National Front is strong enough to make it to the second round of France's 2017 presidential election. Therefore, the next challenge for the party is to gain enough popularity to stand a good chance in a possible runoff vote. With unemployment high and economic growth still weak, the National Front has opportunity to grow.