The far-right National Front will take control of at least 11 French towns with more than 9,000 residents after nationwide local elections Sunday, preliminary results showed.
Members of President Francois Hollande’s government called the right’s victories a “defeat firstly for the left” and a “moment of truth” for the ruling Socialist Party.
In a televised address, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the local elections were “a defeat for the government and for the majority.”
“[The defeat is] collective, and I recognize my part in it,” he said, prompting speculation that Hollande might reshuffle the cabinet and replace Ayrault with the current interior minister, France24 reported.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls had earlier spoken of “14 to 15” towns falling to the FN but that figure was not confirmed with most of the counting concluded. Valls apparently included a number of mayors from smaller far-right organizations in his projected total.
He said the Socialists may lose about 50 of their cities to the mainstream right wing UMP party.
Marine Le Pen, the FN’s leader, said her party had won ten towns Sunday to add to the one it won in the first round of voting on March 23.
The two biggest towns which will be run by FN or FN-backed mayors are Beziers and Frejus in the south of France and the FN also claimed control of a district of Marseille.
“We will show that our elected candidates can be good mayors,” a delighted Le Pen said, hailing a historic breakthrough for the party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Final results were not complete in Sunday’s second round of municipal elections.
Meanwhile Paris gets its first female mayor. Socialist Anne Hidalgo defeated a conservative UMP candidate, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.