France’s centre-right UMP party and its allies have taken first place in the first round of local elections, partial results show. Projections suggest that the far-right National Front – despite strong gains – came second with about 25% of the vote, behind the conservatives on 30%.
President Francois Hollande’s governing Socialists came third with about 20%. Voters are electing representatives in 101 departments, or counties, charged with issues like schools and welfare. The results mean the second round on 29 March will see a run-off between the UMP and the FN in many constituencies.
In the past, voters for rival parties have combined in the second round to keep the far right out. The poor results for the Socialists follows on from their defeats in municipal and EU elections last year. Some polls ahead of the vote had indicated that Marine Le Pen’s FN could come top in the first round.