Exit polls in the first round of voting in France's municipal elections suggest a historic first for the National Front and substantial losses for Hollande's Socialist left
PARIS - In the first round of France's local elections the exit polls suggest that the right has made big gains while the left is down and abstention rates reached a record level of over 35 percent.
In a historic first the far-right National Front party has managed to obtain 7 per cent of the votes, finishing top in some cities and taking a key position for the second round.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing party, the Union for a Popular Movement, and its centrist allies are leading the electoral race achieving 48 percent of the national vote, the polls currently suggest.
Incumbent President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party and its alliances appear to have got 43 percent of the vote, a drop of approximately 5 percent compared to the 2008 municipal elections
Union for a Popular Movement candidate Nathalie Kosciusko Morizet has taken a slender 1 percent lead over her Socialist Party rival Anne Hidalgo to become the first female mayor of Paris.
In Marseille, the Socialist party's Patrick Mennucci is far behind the candidate Union for a Popular Movement candidate Jean-Claude Gaudin while in Bordeaux, Alain Juppé (UMP) was re-elected in the first round.
Meanwhile in the northwest town of Henin-Beaumont in the Pas-de-Calais department, Steeve Briois has won the mayoral race outright with over 50 percent of the vote preventing a second round run-off next Sunday.
An estimated 44.5 million voters were registered across France to choose mayors and councilors in 36,700 towns, cities and villages from among 928,333 candidates in the first nationwide vote since Hollande was elected president in 2012.
The second round of voting in the country’s municipal elections is due Sunday 30 March.
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