Candidates of far-right National Front (FN) was leading in the first round of France’s regional elections.
The party’s lists ranked first in six regions out of 13, a major victory for the FN as it gears up for 2017 presidential run-off, Xinhua reported.
According to exit polls, the FN garnered up to 30 percent of the votes outpacing the Conservatives who collected up to 27.5 percent.
The Socialists, despite a spectacular climb in the approval ratings of their leader Francois Hollande, lost most councils to either the conservatives or the FN.
They secured between 22 and 23 percent of the votes, a fresh blow to the ruling party, which has been struggling to erase heavy losses it reported in local and European elections in 2014.
The governing Socialist Party, which dominated councils of French districts, failed in third election test to appease discontent voters on economic woes and security worries that the National Front benefit from to reshape the country’s political landscape and challenge for the presidential election in 2017.
Never having control of a regional council, the FN made a major victory with its leader Marine Le Pen won 41.9 of the votes in France’s Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region.
Marine’s niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, came out first in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region.
If the result confirmed, the FN candidates are well placed to made a large victory in the second round next Sunday.
“This vote confirms what previous polls had announced. The national movement is now the largest party in France, while it is barely represented in parliament,” Marine Le Pen said.
Some 44.6 million French voters are registered as eligible to cast their ballots across the country’s polling stations.
A total of 21,456 candidates represented in 171 lists are competing for seats in councils of 13 French regions to manage mainly local transport, education and unemployment.
Candidates have to collect half of the votes. Otherwise they will go to the second round scheduled for December 13 and have to win at least 10 percent of the votes on Sunday.