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Far right leader wins over French women

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Samantha Reeve
WVoN co-editor

The leader of France’s far right party, Marine Le Pen, succeeded in increasing the number of women voting for the National Front (FN) in the first round of Sunday’s French presidential elections.

In previous elections, about twice as many men as women voted for the party, but this time round the proportion of men and women was roughly the same at 18%.

Agnes Balle, director of political surveys at CSA pollster, said that French women generally avoid extreme candidates at both ends of the political spectrum, but Le Pen has successfully bucked this trend.

Le Pen polled 6.4 million votes in Sunday’s first round, or 17.9% of the total, compared to 28.6% who voted for the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande and 27.1% for the current president, Sarkozy.

Since becoming president of the FN in January 2011, she has given the party’s macho image a major overhaul. It is part of an overall image change for the party, moving away from neo-nazi and overtly racist groups.

Le Pen has also widened the party’s policies, talking not only about race and immigration, but also economics and the Euro. According to Le Pen, she represents the ‘invisible’ in society – those who have been excluded by the crisis.

Sarkozy and Hollande will now have to win over these “invisible” French citizens before the run-off election on May 6. Le Pen is not expected to endorse either candidate.

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