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Far Right Poised To Win Towns, Create Bastions Against Foreigners

June 17, 1995

PARIS (AP) _ The far-right National Front appeared poised to do well in the French heartland in municipal elections Sunday, and top party officials pledged to use towns they win as bastions against foreigners.

The anti-immmigration party apparently could conquer up to a half-dozen town halls in the runoff.

Bruno Megret, No. 2 leader of the party and candidate for mayor in Vitrolles, said he would favor French families in allotting housing and other services.

``The situation for immigrants being less favorable, it will incite foreign families ... to leave if they are able,″ he said in an interview with the newspaper Le Monde.

Megret took 43 percent of last Sunday’s first-round vote in Vitrolles, a town of 38,000 outside Marseille in southern France. Socialist incumbent Jean-Jacques Anglade got 28 percent.

The National Front is also well placed in the Mediterranean port of Toulon, where its candidate came first in the first round, and in assorted smaller towns.

The party, considered a pariah by the political mainstream, has never held a town with a population over 4,000.

The outcome of the election for mayors and municipal counselors, chosen every six years in more than 36,000 towns, could be determined partly by apathy. A record 30.5 percent of those eligible failed to vote in the first round.

Proposals for the governing right and the left to band together to block the extreme right have fizzled, leaving the three sides pitted against each other in a record 121 towns.

Even in Vitrolles, the conservative candidate, with only 12.5 percent, refused to join forces with the Socialist incumbent to block the extreme right.

Only in Mulhouse, in eastern France, did a right-wing candidate join with the better placed Socialist to try to stop the National Front.

Megret said he knew of ways to circumvent laws against discrimination on the basis of nationality but would not elaborate. Others were more specific.

``If the applicant is French, we will give him a lodging. If he is foreign, he’ll go to the bottom of the list,″ Marie-France Stirbois, the far-right candidate in Dreux, southwest of Paris, was quoted as saying by Le Monde. ``You do what you want in a town hall. Let’s make that clear.″

She placed first with 35 percent of the first-round vote, campaigning under the slogan ``Dreux: A French Town.″

The voting comes shortly after presidential elections in which National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen drew a record 15 percent.

The May election of conservative President Jacques Chirac failed to produce momentum for the governing right, which hoped big wins would solidify its hold on power. It was gunning to take control of Marseille, thus securing France’s five largest cities.

The conservatives risked losing their 12-year monopoly of Paris, with Socialist candidates leading in two of the city’s 20 districts.

The Socialists, who took a majority of towns in 1989, faced tough battles, while the Communist Party faced a challenge from conservatives in its last major bastion, the English Channel port of Le Havre.

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