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New Czech party gets tough on immigrants in EU vote

A new Czech party founded by a Japan-born entrepreneur is pinning its hopes on anti-immigrant rhetoric in its campaign for next month's European elections. It is a strategy that helped sweep the Usvit (Dawn) party into parliament last October, when it scored nearly seven percent of the vote in a snap election just months after its launch. The party has only nine regular members, including founder Tomio Okamura, a well-known half-Czech, half-Japanese businessman who counts a travel agency for cuddly toys among his successful ventures.

French far-right leader says pork or nothing for pupils

School canteens will no longer offer non-pork meal options in towns where France's anti-immigration far-right National Front party won local elections, its leader Marine Le Pen said Monday. Le Pen reignited debate on a sensitive issue about the substitution meals targeting mainly Muslim and Jewish pupils for whom pork is taboo. "We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus," Le Pen told RTL radio. "There is no reason for religion to enter into the public sphere." She defended the decision saying it was necessary to "save secularism".

Socialists hammered in French vote, FN wins key towns: exit polls

France's ruling Socialist Party suffered heavy losses in nationwide local elections Sunday and the far-right National Front claimed control of at least two mid-sized towns, the first exit polls indicated. As ballots closed, the centre-right UMP claimed to have been the principal victor in the first electoral test for President Francois Hollande's government since his 2012 election. bur-am/dh

Socialists hammered in French vote, far-right wins key towns

France's ruling Socialist Party suffered heavy losses in nationwide local elections Sunday and the far-right National Front claimed control of at least two mid-sized towns, the first exit polls indicated. As ballots closed, the National front (FN) said it was on track to claim 1,200 municipal council seats nationwide in what one prominent activist described as the biggest electoral success in the party's history.

French far-right to win more towns in elections: exit polls

PARIS (Reuters) - Candidates backed by France's far-right National Front (FN) party were on track to secure victories in the southern towns of Beziers and Frejus in local elections on Sunday, exit polls and partial tallies showed. Amid broad dissatisfaction with President Francois Hollande's ruling Socialists, the FN already made a breakthrough in last week's first round of voting by winning power in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont. (Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by Mark John)

Socialists hammered in French vote, FN wins key towns: exit polls

France's ruling Socialist Party suffered heavy losses in nationwide local elections Sunday and the far-right National Front claimed control of at least two mid-sized towns, the first exit polls indicated. As ballots closed, the centre-right UMP claimed to have been the principal victor in the first electoral test for President Francois Hollande's government since his 2012 election. bur-am/dh

Colombian soldiers clown around in roving circus

The amateur trapeze artist on the not very high wire juggles while trying to keep his balance, but fails and falls. A crowd of hundreds of villagers claps anyway. After all, he is just a soldier -- part of a roving Colombian circus made up of military personnel. The circus is part of efforts to ease local fears about Colombian armed forces after decades of conflict -- a brutal civil war with leftist rebels that has lasted half a century and left thousands dead.

French left joins forces to stem far right surge

France's ruling Socialist Party on Monday announced it would join forces with the Greens and the Communist Party in a bid to block advances by the far-right National Front (FN) in nationwide local elections. The move will see the three parties field combined electoral lists in the second round of the elections next Sunday, at which the FN is poised to win control of up to 15 mid-sized towns following a better-than-expected showing in the first found on Sunday.

French far-right leader hails 'exceptional' poll results

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right National Front (FN) party, on Sunday hailed "exceptional" results in the first round of local elections where several FN candidates were in leading position. Le Pen said the municipal polls marked the "end of the bipolarisation of the political scene" and lauded "an exceptional vintage for the FN". tup/mbx/cc

Colombian rebels free man held captive for 2 months

Bogota, Dec 25 (EFE).- The smaller of Colombia's two main guerrilla insurgencies has freed a man held captive since Oct. 30, the International Committee of the Red Cross told Efe Wednesday. Members of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, handed Jose Eulogio Vera over to the ICRC in a rural area outside Arauquita, a town near the Venezuelan border, at around 8:00 p.m. Tuesday. Vera was reunited with his family in the nearby town of Saravena after a medical exam showed he was in good health.
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