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Future president? Marine Le Pen's National Front gains blockbuster victory in regional vote

Future president? Marine Le Pen's National Front gains blockbuster victory in regional vote
Marine Le Pen can break out a bottle of champagne to celebrate after her far-right National Front (FN) earned an unprecedented victory in the first round of French regional elections on Sunday.

The FN secured 28 percent of the vote nationally, the Interior Ministry estimated, the highest ever for the anti-EU, anti-immigration party, which came first in six regions out of 13.

Le Pen attracted over 41 percent of the votes in the northern Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region and in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur in the southeast in a huge blow to French President Francois Hollande's ruling Socialists.

FN supporters hope the latest victory will help catapult Le Pen into the Elysees Palace as president in 2017.

"This is a historic, extraordinary result," FN lawmaker Marion Marechal-Le Pen (granddaughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen and niece of party leader Marine) told France's TF1. "The old system died tonight."

Marine Le Pen also admitted it was a "magnificent result" welcomed with “humility, seriousness and a deep sense of responsibility," Le Figaro quoted her as saying.

“We are without question the first party of France," she added.

Le Pen's support skyrocketed following the Paris attacks, in which Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people and injured 352 last month. Far right groups across Europe also seized the opportunity presented by the terrorists, castigating Islam, as well as thousands of Muslim refugees fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front back in 1972, has a reputation for her hardcore anti-immigration rhetoric.

READ MORE: Marine Le Pen’s National Front leads in first round of French regional elections – exit poll

She's currently on trial in Lyons, facing hate speech charges for comments made at a rally in 2010, when she compared Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation. She has denied any wrongdoing, but could face up to a year in prison if found guilty of inciting racial hatred.

The brassy blond politician has repeatedly slammed the EU’s handling of foreign and migrant policy.

According to the FN leader, current problems in France stem from “blind conformity in relations with Islamist states.”

Speaking at a rally in Lille on Tuesday, the 47-year-old blamed "crazy immigration policy, made without discernment, and with the abandoning of the principle of assimilation" for the current state of affairs in France.

The deadly terrorist attacks in Paris occurred amid the worst refugee crisis Europe has faced since WWII. Fears escalated after reports that several of the IS attackers had actually slipped into the EU along with the crowds of asylum seekers fleeing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. This reinforced the mounting criticism of the reckless EU policy of welcoming refugees. Over 1 million asylum seekers are expected to arrive in Europe by the end of this year, more than twice as many as last year.

Final results of the Sunday vote meanwhile showed president Hollande’s party taking only 23 percent of the Sunday vote nationwide. The Socialist Party said it will withdraw from the second round of regional elections in the north, east and southeast of France where the FN received major support.

The FN also came ahead of former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Républicains (formerly the UMP), which garnered 27 percent.

A second round of voting will be held on 13 December. It will be the last election before the 2017 presidential poll.