French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during an awards ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 9, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane de Sakutin
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French President Francois Hollande called Wednesday for unity following the record showing of the far-right National Front (FN) in regional polls, which has left traditional parties divided over how to fight back.French presidents are meant to stay above the fray of party politics, so Hollande's intervention demonstrated the depth of the crisis gripping the political elite after Marine Le Pen's FN topped polls in the first round last Sunday.Hollande's ruling Socialists have started pulling candidates from some regions where they cannot win, in order to help the opposition Republicans led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy beat the FN.But Sarkozy – aware that such a move would play into the FN's narrative that the mainstream parties are virtually identical – has rejected the idea of teaming up with the Socialist Party.
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