The outcome of the first nationwide vote since Hollande was elected in 2012 was dubbed "Black Sunday" by one Socialist lawmaker. The FN took 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 victory for itz leader Marine Le Pen.
|Hildalgo, first female mayor of Paris|
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.
The biggest towns won by the FN or FN-backed candidates were Béziers and Fréjus in the south. The mayor's seat in a district of Marseille was among eight others won on Sunday, adding to the FN's first-round election victory in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont.
"We have moved onto a new level," Le Pen claimed. "There is now a third major political force in our country. "We will destroy this idea that the FN represents some sort of threat to the Republic. Our elected candidates will show that they are good mayors."
Nationwide, the UMP and its allies took just under 46 percent of the votes cast, the Socialists and other left-wing parties 40.5 percent and the FN and some smaller far right groups just under seven percent. The turnout was estimated at around 62 percent. The losses of the socialists are widely seen as punishment for Hollande’s failure to turn around the euro zone's second largest economy and to tackle an unemployment rate stuck at more than 10 percent.