Round one in French elections is over, and the socialists were hammered.
The victor was Marine Le Pen's Front National party. The Socialists only received 43% of the votes, with the center-right pulling in 46-48%. Front National only got 5-7% (reports vary), but that was far better than expected. Front National fielded candidates in fewer than 600 of France's 36,000 municipalities.
The goal of the socialists was to prevent Front National from winning a mayoral race on any town. They failed.
Recall that French elections are in two rounds. If someone gets 50% in the first round, they win. Otherwise there is a runoff between the top two candidates.
Le Pen Surprises in French Elections
The Guardian reports Le Pen Grows Stronger Amid Disillusion as FN Surprises in French Elections
Was this the moment the Front National became more than just a protest party?
While France's local elections on Sunday were notable for record voter abstention and a bloody nose for the governing Socialists, it was the far-right party's showing in a crucial European election year that really stood out.
The anti-Europe FN, led by Marine le Pen, fielded candidates in fewer than 600 of France's 36,000 municipalities – and still secured about 5% of the total votes cast at the weekend. As a result, expectations are mounting that it will do extremely well in May's European elections.
The FN secured one mayor elected outright in the northern town of Hénin-Beaumont, a former coalmining area traditionally in Socialist hands, and enough votes to take part in the second-round runoff in nearly 230 municipalities. The FN goes into next Sunday's vote ahead in a number of major and symbolic towns and cities including Avignon, Perpignan and Béziers.
France's biggest selling newspaper, Ouest-France, said the FN was now the "third political force" in the country.