French President Francois Hollande is set to take the axe to his beleaguered government after it suffered humiliating losses in local elections in which the far-right National Front (FN) made historic gains. The outcome of the first nationwide vote since Hollande was elected in 2012 was described as “Black Sunday” by one Socialist lawmaker. The FN won control of 11 towns and was on track to claim more than 1,200 municipal council seats nationwide, its best ever showing at the grassroots level of French politics and a stunning vindication of leader Marine Le Pen’s efforts to extend its appeal. It was also a night to savour for France’s main opposition, the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). The party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy performed strongly across the country, seizing control of a string of towns and cities, including some once considered bastions of the left.
French far-right party Front National (FN) presidente Marine Le Pen speaks at the FN headquarters after the results of the France municpal elections’ second round, on March 30, 2014 in Nanterre
In a rare consolation for Hollande, the Socialists held on to control of Paris, where Anne Hidalgo, 54, will become the first female mayor of the French capital after a victory that was far more comfortable than anyone had expected.
But Limoges, a town that had been run by the left for 102 years, fell to the UMP, as did Toulouse, the Champagne capital Reims and Saint Etienne. A total of 155 towns with more than 9,000 residents swung from left to right. “It has been a black Sunday,” said Socialist deputy Jean-Christophe Cambadelis.