French pollsters said the governing Socialists lost ground to the conservative right in municipal elections today that are seen as a referendum on embattled President Francois Hollande and certain to lead to a government shakeup. Estimates showed the anti-immigration far right adding several towns to its victory bucket after a symbolic win in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont in last week's first round. The low participation rate, estimated at no more than 62%, was expected to break an all-time record. "It's a defeat firstly for the left. It's a sad evening," said a government spokeswoman.
The only good news for Hollande was solid indications by pollsters that the crown jewel, Paris, would remain in its hands with a win by Anne Hidalgo, 54, for six years deputy of Socialist Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe. She was battling another woman for the French capital, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet from the rival right. The anti-immigration National Front had a surprisingly strong finish in the first round of voting and pollsters said its candidate in the Cote d'Azur town of Frejus was winning. Extreme-right candidate Robert Menard, former head of Reporters Without Borders, supported by the National Front, won the town of Beziers. Click for the full story.