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French far-right set for town-hall record

(Agencies) Updated: 2014-03-31 13:29

French far-right set for town-hall record

Anne Hidalgo (R), current Paris city deputy mayor and Socialist Party candidate in the mayoral election, celebrates with outgoing Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe on the podium in front of the Paris town hall after her victory in the second round in the French mayoral elections in Paris, March 30, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS - France's anti-immigrant National Front were set to win a record number of town halls as early results showed a rout for President Francois Hollande's ruling Socialists in local elections on Sunday.

The mainstream right also made gains.

Partial tallies and exit polls showed the anti-EU party of Marine Le Pen on track to secure power in 10 town halls around the country, easily surpassing its past record in the 1990s when it ruled in four towns.

The Socialist losses, if confirmed, will raise speculation of a cabinet reshuffle as early as Monday as Hollande, the most unpopular leader in France's 56-year-old Fifth Republic, seeks to turn around the euro zone's second-largest economy.

An exit poll by survey group BVA showed his allies winning just 42 percent of the popular vote against 49 percent for the French right - a result which BVA forecast would translate into a swing of over 100 large towns to conservative rule.

"Clearly we are entering a new phase, the duopoly of French politics has been broken and we must reckon with a third force," Le Pen said, referring to the fact Socialists and mainstream conservatives have long dominated French politics.

Final results showed the FN won the towns of Beziers, Le Pontet, Frejus, Beaucaire, Le Luc, Camaret-sur-Aigues and Cogolin in the south, and Villers-Cotteret and Hayange in the north. It already made a breakthrough in last week's first round by winning power in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont.

In some consolation for Hollande, Socialists looked likely to retain control of Paris city hall, with their candidate Anne Hidalgo due to become the first female mayor there.

But they were set to cede power in cities such as Toulouse, Angers and Quimper, exit polls showed, while the conservative UMP saw off a challenge to its rule in the port of Marseille, although the FN won in the city's seventh district.

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