Opposition Triumphs in French Local Elections
Center-right opposition UMP party has claimed victory in Sunday's second tour of French local elections.
Ten to fifteen towns could fall into the far-right National Front (FN)'s hands, according to various reports.
FN is poised to install mayors or councilors in some 200 places across France.
The results favouring former President Sarkozy's UMP (Union for Popular Movement) will be considered a huge blow for the ruling Socialists, who face mounting popular discontent over their incapacity to handle France's economic problems and tackle unemployment.
Socialists' defeat could trigger a cabinet reshuffle which could lead to the replacement of current Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault with Interior Minister Manuel Valls, reports quoted by French TV channel France24 have suggested.
Some 155 towns of more than 9000 have been lost by the Socialists.
President Francois Hollande's party has however managed to keep their hold in the capital Paris and in Lyon, which is the country's third-biggest city.
Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo won 5.45% of the ballots against conservative Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, in a contest which regardless of its results would have led a woman to become mayor of Paris for the first time in history.
Other major cities like Toulouse, Angers and Limoges, are set to have UMP mayors after the elections.
The FN has done remarkably well compared to previous elections, with various cities and towns to the south of France such as Beziers and Frejus.
In Beziers, FN-backed Robert Menard, the founder of Reporters Without Borders, will take charge of the town.
Marine Le Pen's far-right party also achieved success last week, when it gathered 5% support (compared to 0.9% in 2008) at the first round of local elections and and gained mayorship in the town of Henin-Beaumont in northern France, as it obtained more than 50% support for its candidate.
Voter turnout was at a historic low for municipal elections in the country, with 52.36% of activity at 17:00 on Sunday.
Local polls, which were held in a total of 36 000 municipalities, towns and cities, are thought to be a test ahead of May 25's European elections, where the eurosceptic FN is also expected to do well.
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