Fights started outside French town halls tonight as they came under the control of the far-right National Front for the first time following dramatic gains in local elections. Exit polls suggested that the anti-immigration and anti-Europe party had roundly beaten the governing Socialists in a number of key constituencies. 'Demonstrators are trying to get at the Front representatives and starting fights,' said a police spokesman in Frejus, the picturesque Mediterranean town which is hugely popular with British tourists. Frejus and nearby Beziers are now expected to have National Front (FN) mayors sworn in, along with around five other towns, following a nationwide drubbing for President Francois Hollande's Socialists. Riot police were also out in force in other parts of the country as anti-fascist demonstrators threatened FN candidates with violence. It meant further humiliation for Mr Hollande, whose disastrous tax and spend policies have led to economic stagnation, so opening the electoral door to the FN, which is regularly accused of being racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim.
David Rachline, who is expected to become the FN mayor of Frejus, is a former head of the party's youth movement, and still just 26. Mr Rachline said: 'The political establishment has failed the people - it has ruined the town and filled its pockets. 'You can't talk about a protest vote any more - the Front's scores show that people are backing its ideas.' In a deeply humiliating blow for the Socialist government, finance minister Pierre Moscovici was unseated from the town council in Valentigny in the Doubs department. Mr Moscovici, who was tasked by Mr Hollande with leading the French economy out of recession, is deeply unpopular with the French people. There were also gains for the UMP conservative opposition, as Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the spokesman for Mr Hollande's government, said: 'These are bad results for the Left. Disappointing.' The FN took 50.26 per cent of the vote in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont last Sunday, giving it an instant majority and meaning it already has its first mayor there. As polls closed in the two round municipal elections tonight the FN said it was on track to claim 1,200 municipal council seats.
'We have moved on to a new level,' said Ms Le Pen. 'There is now a third major political force in our country.' The Socialists only consolation they have provided Paris with its first ever female mayor. Anne Hidalgo is expected to beat her conservative rival, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet in the French capital. Miss Hidalgo claimed 54.5 per cent of second round votes in the capital, comfortably beating her centre-Right rival, who won 45.5 per cent. The Spanish-born civil servant hailed a 'great victory' even before the full results were announced. Mr Hollande's response to the expected nationwide drubbing is said to be a major reshuffle, replacing Prime Minister Jean Marc Ayrault with Interior Minister Manuel Valls. The despairing Mr Hollande is also expected to bring his former girlfriend, Segolene Royal, back into government. This is now possible because Mr Hollande's ex-first lady, Valerie Trierweiler, who hates Ms Royal, has disappeared following the President's alleged affair with the actress Julie Gayet.
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