French Socialists bruised in local elections
France's ruling Socialists on Sunday (30 March) suffered a bruising defeat in local elections, with the centre-right claiming victory and the anti-EU National Front making further gains – a possible foreshadowing of the upcoming EU elections.
The centre-right Popular Movement Union (UMP) won with around 45.9 percent of the vote, according to early results. The Socialists lost over 150 cities to the centre-right, including Limoges, Toulouse, and Angers, with only around 40.6 percent of the votes cast in their favour.
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UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope called it a "blue wave" making his party "the first in France".
"It is the first big electoral victory in local elections since the UMP's creation" in 2002, Cope told TF1 TV channel.
Paris and Strasbourg stayed under Socialist control, with Anne Hidalgo becoming the French capital's first female mayor – a consolation prize for the embattled President, Francois Hollande, whose approval ratings keep hovering at a low 20 percent.
The far-right and anti-EU National Front (FN) meanwhile scored its best-ever result getting around 6.8 percent of the vote, according to early results. The party, led by Marine Le Pen, an MEP and daughter of the oldest MEP, Jean-Marie Le Pen, is set to govern for the next six years in at least 12 French towns, on top of the four municipalities that were already under FN rule.
Marine Le Pen, who steered away from the anti-Semitic comments of her father in a bid to increase the respectability of her party, said the "glass ceiling has been shattered".
"No one can seriously deny this has been a huge victory for us," she said.
The FN is widely expected to score even better in the European Parliament elections on 25 May, with polls indicating it could gain the most votes, ahead of the centre-right UMP.