PARIS – French voters dealt a severe blow to the Socialist government in Sunday’s municipal elections, but the party saved face by retaining the crown jewel, Paris, which got its first female mayor.
The anti-immigration far right, which claims that France’s large Muslim population is “Islamicizing” the nation, made solid advances, fulfilling National Front promises to begin building a grass-roots base.
Socialist leaders conceded defeat in the final round of the voting seen as a referendum on unpopular President Francois Hollande, who was expected to reshuffle the Cabinet in an effort to give the government a boost. Hollande has earned record-low poll ratings for his failure to cure France’s flagging economy or cut into the jobless rate, which hovers around 10 percent.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced deep losses for his Socialist Party, saying it lost to the mainstream right some 50 cities of more than 30,000 people it had held previously, and about 155 towns and cities of all sizes. Toulouse, France’s fourth-largest city, moved to the right.
National Front leader Marine Le Pen said the performance amounted to “an incontestably great success” that will give her National Front more than 1,200 local councilors, surpassing her goal.
Paris also gets a new look, as Anne Hidalgo defeated conservative right candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.
“I am the first woman mayor of Paris. I am aware of the challenge,” Hidalgo said in a victory speech.