"Far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen" now has a chance to swing the French presidential election, as France 24 reports, after pulling in 18 percent of the ballots in the first round of voting Sunday.
Her strong showing is a major reason why current President Nicolas Sarkozy, from the center-right UMP, is now the first incumbent French president not to have finished No. 1 in the country's initial round of voting for that post.
Sarkozy, who has been president since 2007, got about 27 percent of the votes. Socialist Francois Hollande came in first, with nearly 29 percent.
The battle for votes leading up to the May 6 runoff election, Eleanor Beardsley reported today on Morning Edition, will be "on the far right" as Sarkozy tries to appeal to Le Pen's supporters. But, Eleanor says, Le Pen may be just as happy to see Hollande emerge victorious so that "she can attempt to lead the opposition and refashion the French right in her image."
"There is one clear favourite — Hollande. He has a big pool of votes on his left, and he's guaranteed to get them, more or less. On the right there isn't the same automaticity with Le Pen voters backing Sarkozy. Marine Le Pen has solid support, she has pulled off a major coup - 6.3 million voters chose her.
"She has a clear interest in Sarkozy losing. She wants his party to implode and her party to then pick up some right-wingers from his party and become the main opposition to the Left."
According to The Associated Press, Hollande said Sunday that "tonight I become the candidate of all the forces who want to turn one page and turn another." Sarkozy, in a nod to Le Pen's supporters, said "he recognized voters' concerns about jobs and immigration, and 'the concern of our compatriots to preserve their way of life.' "
Le Pen told her supporters that "tonight is historic. ... We are the only opposition to the ultra-liberal, libertarian left-wing."