The far-right's rise in France is unstoppable, National Front leader Marine Le Pen told supporters after exit polls on 13 December showed her party failed to secure a single region in the election run-offs, suffering a major disappointment after topping the votes in the first round.
The anti-immigration, anti-Europe party failed to transform its first round breakthrough in the second round after the Socialists pulled out of the race in key regions and urged supporters to back the Conservatives. Le Pen's party won more votes than any other party nationally in last week's first round, boosted by fears about security and immigration after the attacks in Paris in November that killed 130 people.
The second round left her party with no seats. The results were met with boos and shouts of disgust and disappointment at the election headquarters of Marine Le pen in Henin-Beaumont in northern France.
Following the results of the first round, which was the best achieved by the National Front in its history, the Socialist Party withdrew its candidates in the north, where Le Pen was the main candidate, and in the south-east, where her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen was running, urging its supporters to vote for former president Nicolas Sarkozy's Republican party in a bid to keep the far right from getting into power. The tactical move worked.
Sarkozy's The 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.
Marine Le Pen quickly appeared after the results to reassure her supporters. She maintained that although the party lost in the second round at the polls, the rise of the National Front was now unstoppable.
She said: "In comparison to the last regional elections in 2010, our support rose from 9.17% to 30% of the votes in this round of regional elections five years later, confirming that - as the European and departmental elections have shown - there is an inexorable rise, election after election of the national feeling, surpassing in a regional election the numbers of votes gathered in the 2012 presidential elections."
She encouraged supporters to join her party and said that "in the weeks that follow, throughout the country, there will be the creation of blue marine committees (the National Front colours), who will have the task of welcoming you, of gathering all the French of all origins, who want to participate with us in the work of redressing our dear country," she said. "Rejoin them, together nothing can stop us, long live the French republic, long live the nation, long live France."
For most of National Front's supporters, there was a silver lining to the party's defeat - there will be no Socialist representatives in the council in the northern and southern regions for the next five years. "The results are very good because we doubled our vote so that's a good thing and we have ejected the Socialists, so that's very good news," said one supporter.
"Satisfying because we are getting bigger and we are now the first party of the nation. But it's disgusting that the left tried to block us. I have always voted for FN and I will never vote for Socialists or Republicans," said another young supporter.
"After her speech I feel even more able to go into another election with even more rage," said a supporter pointing at the presidential elections which the National Front and its supporters are already targeting for. "Fingers crossed ...," a supporter said, referring to the upcoming presidential elections.