24 Mar 2014

Socialists punished in elections

3:27 pm on 24 March 2014

French voters have punished the governing Socialists in municipal elections, with far right party National Front making a strong showing in several towns.

The elections are seen as an important test for the Socialists who are deeply unpopular.

National Front president Marine Le Pen in Nanterre.

National Front president Marine Le Pen in Nanterre. Photo: AFP

The anti-immigration National Front (FN) took 50.26% of the vote in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont, which has historically voted for the left.

The party has done as well or even better than it said it would in the first round of voting. In Avignon and Perpignan in the south, its candidates for mayor had the biggest number of votes, the BBC reports.

In some 200 places, FN candidates have won through to the second round next weekend. In most cases, they have little chance of actually gaining control of the town halls and look set to be defeated in round two.

However, it is a big advance for the far right and an expression of the growing popular exasperation with the establishment parties of left and right.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen said the party has arrived as a major independent force.

Socialists were also hit by low turnout in the first round of the elections - exit polls suggest that up to 35% of voters stayed at home.