France Politics: the French chose far-right parties in local elections / Breaking News

Polls at the end of the first round of local elections in France show that the far-right Front National (FN) party has made historic gains, underscoring popular discontent with President François Hollande and his left allies.

The far-right French National Front party made significant gains in local elections, when voters sent a message of deep discontent with Socialist President Francois Hollande.

When the polls closed, polls suggested the ruling Socialists had won just 43% of the vote nationwide, compared to 48% for the center-right opposition.

According to pollster BVA, the FN won seven percent – a high national figure for the far-right group, as it fielded candidates in 596 of the country’s 36,000 or so municipalities. FN leader Marine Le Pen described the election as “exceptional” for the party.

Opposition conservatives recorded a major gain, with 48% of Sunday’s vote, leaving Holland’s Socialists and their left allies with 43%, BVA said.

“The National Front arrived as a major independent force – a political force at both national and local level,” Le Pen told TF1 television. The daughter of former FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen won 18% in the 2012 presidential election.

More importantly, the anti-immigration and anti-EU party succeeded in seizing the socialist stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont in northern France. His candidate, Steeve Briois, won the majority of votes with 50.26%, which makes him the big winner and mayor of the old coal plant.

The FN’s exit project is also ahead in the eastern town of Forbach. In the south, the party was in the lead in Avignon, Perpignan, Béziers and Fréjus, and contested for second place in Marseille, behind the outgoing conservative, reports Reuters.

According to pollsters, about six municipalities could now see the FN reign after the second round.

At the same time, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault launched a televised appeal to “all democratic forces” to close ranks against FN candidates next week.

“Wherever the FN is able to win the second round, all those who support democracy and the Republic have a duty to prevent them,” said Ayrault, calling on voters to move more numerous than in the first round.

In Tulle, the former electoral district of Holland, the socialist mayor Bernard Combes, friend and adviser of the president, was re-elected with, it seems, a little more than 65% of the votes.

As of Sunday evening, estimates showed that up to 38.5% of voters stayed away from polling stations, a historically high level of abstention.

Confirmed results from all French polling stations are not expected until Monday morning.

Hollande’s popularity recently hit an all-time high, with his approval rating dropping below 20% for the first time since his election in May 2012, according to a TNS Sofres opinion poll for Le Figaro Magazine in February. The record level of disapproval reflected turmoil in his personal life, high levels of unemployment and lack of economic growth.