PARIS (Reuters) - France’s far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen is expected to dominate in the first round of local elections in the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais in December, mustering 40 percent support, according to a poll on Sunday.
The latest survey by pollster Odoxa indicates an increase in voting intentions for the far-right movement in one of France’s poorest regions. Another survey in June by OpinionWay showed 32 percent support for Le Pen in the first round and 37 percent in the second.
The Odoxa poll showed Le Pen would secure 36 to 37 percent of the ballot in the first round, well ahead of 26 percent for the conservative Les Republicains party, with the ruling Socialist party (PS) in third place with 19 to 21 percent, according to current intentions.
Le Pen would win the election in the second round with 39 percent of votes, the poll showed. The region is currently run by the PS.
The poll result is a further setback for the PS, which has lost in every major election - local or European - since president Francois Hollande came to power in 2012.
Le Pen is expected to be the National Front candidate for presidential elections in 2017. In the 2012 presidential election, she came third behind Hollande and former president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Her rising popularity in Nord-Pas-de-Calais could be related to the region’s high unemployment rate, which has surpassed the national average in recent years.
The National Front has also rallied strong support in France since 1995 on the back of the country’s low economic growth and rising defiance against mainstream parties.
An overwhelming proportion of National Front supporters are opposed to welcoming migrants and refugees, although a recent poll showed French public opinion had swung to majority support for an intake of more migrants from war zones like Syria.
Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Clelia Oziel