French right-wingers get big win


France’s far-right National Front on Sunday won a bellwether by-election, cementing the party’s status as a political force to be reckoned with by capitalizing on economic gloom and fears of rising crime.

The party’s candidate, Laurent Lopez, garnered 53.9 percent of the vote in the second round of the by-election in the southeastern town of Brignoles, officials in the Var department said.

The euroskeptic and anti-immigration party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen has for years been largely regarded as a pariah in French politics but it has gained significantly in strength and popularity in recent months.

Analysts have said that a National Front win in Brignoles, whose mayor belongs to the Communist party, could be a significant barometer of the national mood.