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Hollande Blames Europe’s Austerity-Only Plan for Le Pen’s Rise

•, By Helene Fouquet and Mark Deen

Francois Hollande, the winner of the first round of France’s elections, said Europe’s austerity drive fueled despair and created conditions for the record-high score for anti-euro National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen, the leader of the nationalist, anti-immigrant party, won 17.9 percent, or 6.4 million votes, surpassing poll estimates with the highest tally for the National Front created by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1972. Hollande, the Socialist candidate, got 28.6 percent in the April 22 ballot, leaving him to face President Nicolas Sarkozy in next month’s runoff. Sarkozy won 27.2 percent.

“It’s this austerity everywhere that brings desperation to people and leads them to vote for the far-right,” Hollande said yesterday in a speech in Quimper, in Brittany, where theNational Front almost doubled its score from 2007.

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