- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2009

PARIS | A leftist candidate backed by an array of political parties staved off his far-right opponent in a mayoral race Sunday that the National Front had hoped would start its comeback.

Other parties, from communists to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives, rallied behind Daniel Duquenne, whom voters designated the new mayor of Henin-Beaumont, a former mining town in northern France.

The victor was sprayed with tear gas minutes after the results were announced, a police officer said by telephone, confirming reports on France-Info radio and the French TV station iTele. Mr. Duquenne was not injured and the aggressor or aggressors fled, said the officer who was not authorized to discuss the situation with the media and requested anonymity.

Police patrolled the streets of Henin-Beaumont and planned to maintain their presence throughout the night, the officer said.

Far-right National Front candidate Steeve Briois won last week’s first-round vote by a 20-point margin, but parties fearing a return of the far right banded together to block him in the final round of the bi-election.

Mr. Duquenne’s victory was slim but comfortable — 52.4 percent to Mr. Briois’ 47.6 percent.

The barrage of support for Mr. Duquenne recalled the successful bid to block National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2002 presidential runoff against then-President Jacques Chirac.

However, the National Front was not about to go down easily. Mr. Briois announced plans to ask the administrative court to cancel the election results, saying Mr. Duquenne won “dishonestly.”

The Henin-Beaumont election was organized after Socialist Mayor Gerard Dalongeville was jailed in early April on preliminary charges of extortion and favoritism.

“I’m happy with what my political family did for this election,” a top aide to Mr. Sarkozy, Henri Guaino, said on French television, referring to the Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, to band with Socialists and other rivals against the National Front. “This is the triumph of democracy.”

The anti-immigration party never fully recovered from Mr. Le Pen’s crushing defeat in 2002. Losses in legislative elections and the 2007 presidential vote sent the anti-immigration party spiraling into debt, and it was forced to sell its headquarters last year.

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