French President François Hollande is expected to launch a rapid shake-up of his Socialist government following a second defeat in local elections on Sunday, with big gains for the main opposition UMP party and far-right National Front.
But in a relief for the two main parties, the FN fell short of the scale of victory it had hoped for after making a big breakthrough in the first round of voting last Sunday.
The main winner of the night was the centre-right UMP, party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy. It was set to gain more than 100 municipalities, capturing a majority of larger towns from the ruling party, including Toulouse, Reims, Angers and St Etienne.
According to one exit poll, the UMP and its allies won 49 per cent of the vote in all towns larger than 3,500 inhabitants, against 42 per cent for the Socialists and other parties of the left, and 9 per cent for the FN.
Jean-François Copé, head of the UMP, said the results represented a “blue wave” against Mr Hollande’s government, demanding that the president “absolutely must change policy”.
Mr Hollande has signalled he will move as early as Monday to shake up his administration in an attempt to put the reverse behind him, with prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, both under threat of replacement.
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