France's anti-immigrant National Front (FN) scored gains in first-round town hall elections on Sunday and took control of a former Socialist bastion as voters punished President Francois Hollande and his left-wing allies. The elections in thousands of constituencies across France were the first nationwide voter test for Hollande, who came to power in May 2012 and has seen his popularity slump to record lows for failing to rein in unemployment.
France's ruling Socialist Party expressed dismay Monday after two far right candidates came within a whisker of claiming 50 percent of the vote in a local by-election. In a result that reflected the extreme right's rising popularity, the representative of the Front National (FN) got 40.4 percent of votes in the first round of Sunday's by-election in the southeastern town of Brignoles while an independent extreme right candidate won 9.1 percent. The result came in an area where the far right has traditionally done well but it was nevertheless seen as symbolically significant.