March 24 - France's anti-immigrant National Front (FN) has surged to power in local elections where voters punished President Francois Hollande for failing to tackle unemployment. Sarah Toms reports.
These local elections in France are being seen as a breakthrough for the far-right. Marine Le Pen's anti immigration National Front Party made significant gains, winning an outright majority in one town on the first round. . (SOUNDBITE) (French) HEAD OF NATIONAL FRONT MARINE LE PEN SAYING: "The essential significance of this big success for our movement is that the National Front Bleu Marine (Le Pen's movement) following is no longer only a national force, it's also from now on a great local force. It's a vote which has a calling to take roots in all the territories of the Republic to prepare for tomorrow's alternative." The FN won around five percent of the vote -- a high amount, given that it fielded candidates in only 600 of around 36,000 constituencies across France. But it's believed that these candidates have little chance of gaining control of the town halls, as they will be beaten in round two. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH PRIME MINISTER JEAN-MARC AYRAULT SAYING: "In a few towns where the National Front is in a position to win the second round, all who support democracy and the Republic have a duty to create the conditions to prevent them." The election to choose councillors and mayors is a punishment for the socialists and President Francois Hollande, deeply unpopular after nearly two years in power. It highlights the dissatisfaction the French feel towards the establishment parties and their failure to tackle unemployment. Exit polls suggest up to 35% of voters stayed at home