For the 2012 election, the constituency attracted nationwide and international attention, as, for the first time, two candidates from the recently held presidential election stood as candidates there: Marine Le Pen of the National Front and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the Left Front. Le Pen is an opposition member of the (Socialist) town council in Hénin-Beaumont, the largest town in the constituency, since 2007 while Mélenchon has argued that the Pas-de-Calais is "the birthplace of the workers movement in France and should not be abandoned to the far-right". Opinion polls a month before the election suggested Le Pen would finish first in the first round, in which the left is divided between several parties, but would be beaten by Kemel or Mélenchon in the second round, with the Left Front potentially taking the constituency from the locally embattled Socialists. The Le Pen-Mélenchon duel attracted international media attention, including for what it revealed of attitudes and expectations in an area of northern France hit hard by deindustrialisation and unemployment. The Guardian noted that, in that regard, "Mélenchon blames what he sees as pernicious free-market capitalism and bankers; Le Pen points the finger at immigrants and Europe".
The seat has traditionally been held by the left. In 1988, Socialist candidate Noël Josèphe had been the only candidate in the second round, which he won unopposed. In 1993, the seat went to the CommunistRémy Auchedé; the Socialists retook it in 1997 with Marcel Cabiddu. He too was unopposed in the second round. He was re-elected in 2002. Upon his death in 2004, the seat went to his suppléanteOdette Duriez, who then won the 2007 election.