France's far-right Front National (FN) failed to transform its first-round breakthrough in the country's regional elections intothe second round, with results showing the party beaten into third place on 13 December.
Marine Le Pen's party had won more votes than any other party nationally in last week's first round and was leading in six of the 13 regions, but the second-round vote left her party with no seats.
In Lille, the biggest city in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region Marine Le Pen was running in, IBTimes UK spoke to residents in the aftermath, where many claimed relief that Front National had not secured the region.
"We avoided the worst. People got together to avoid the worst but now we'll see what happens," says Hélène.
"I don't think this is a very reliable result but I am very happy Front National did not win," adds another resident, Marine.
But Marcel, who has voted Republican all his life, said the failure of FN to win the region showcased France's unfair democratic system. FN failed to take a seat despite achieving 27.36% of the vote nationally, with around 6 million people in Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie who voted for the party unrepresented in the region.
"We need to ask ourselves some questions. In France our politicians tell us that they've learned a lesson and that they will eliminate FN, but in two or three weeks no one will talk about it any more and we'll be back to square one. And with FN in 2017 [the next Presidential election] the same thing will happen again. Republicans and Socialists will fight each other for months and in the end they will team up to eliminate FN. That's not democratic," he observed.
For Agnès, French politicians need to stop thinking of politics as a career. "We need to stop those politicians doing politics like it was a career and only to have power and not for the greater good," she stated.
"Those people keep their seats, their salaries and their advantages, but they are not taking care of our interests," adds Michael.
For Arnauld, France should look up to UK's political system (first part the post) and stop conducting two-round elections. "First of all we would vote less if there was only one round and then we would have a real majority elected after one round. And most of all we would avoid the alliances and backroom deals that happen every time between the two rounds.
Following the 27.73% vote share achieved by FN in the first round on 6 December, the best regional election performance in the party's history, the Socialist Party withdrew its candidates in the north, where Le Pen was the main candidate, and urged its supporters to vote for former president Nicolas Sarkozy's Republican party in a bid to keep the far-right from getting into power.
Sarkozy's Republicans and centre-right allies took 57.5% of the votes in the northern region, where Le Pen was standing, against her 42.5%, the Ifop Fiducial poll for iTELE, Paris Match and Sud Radio showed.
Overall, the Republicans finished ahead of President Francois Hollande's governing Socialist Party, winning seven regions and increasing their vote share from 26.65% to 40.63%. The Socialiast party won five, with nationalists taking Corsica.