Sarkozy's UMP and its allies win 66-70 councils while ruling Socialists are predicted to lose half their councils. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The far-right National Front (FN) made only limited gains in French local elections won by ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's conservatives on Sunday (March 29). Sarkozy's UMP and its allies will take over 66-70 departements, up from 41, while the ruling Socialists will lose about half of the 61 departements they previously held, a poll by CSA for BFMTV said. Other polls had similar results. Winning two thirds of the departements will be a boost for Sarkozy, whose comeback four months ago at the helm of the UMP is challenged by other party veterans. "Tonight the Right-wing Republican party and the Center have clearly won the local elections. Never in the Fifth Republic has our political family won so many local councils," Sarkozy told party supporters. "Through their vote, the French people have massively rejected the policies of Francois Hollande and his government. The disavowal with respect to the governing power cannot be disputed. Never has a majority lost so many local councils. Never has a sitting government given rise to such defiance and rejection. Never has a political party embodied such failure at all levels," he said to cheering crowd. "Finally we are going to accelerate the preparation of a Republican project for the changing of the governing political party. A strong project, a realist project, profoundly new. This project will be the necessary condition to redress the country, to stop the decline which the most archaic Socialism in Europe has plunged us into over the past three years." "The change in the governing power is on the way and nothing will stop it," he said. The anti-immigrant, anti-EU Marine Le Pen's FN party is likely to have won up to 108 local council seats, from holding only one currently. But they will have too few in any one of the 102 "departements" to control any of them, updated exit polls showed. Initial exit polls had shown the FN might win two departements, but the party conceded it had failed to do so. It said however the fact that it had won many seats would help spread its ideas. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, whose deeply unpopular administration had tried to play up modest signs of recovery in the euro zone's second largest economy, conceded defeat and said the government would introduce new measures aimed at boosting employment and public and private investment. The FN, which topped last year's European Parliament elections in France, is aiming to make more progress in regional polls in December. Surveys see Le Pen likely to make it to the second round of the presidential election in 2017, but not win. In total, 4,108 councilors with limited powers over roads, schools and social services were elected in the two rounds of local elections. The complex voting system, in which a duo of councilors is elected per constituency who then elect next Thursday the presidents of 98 "department" councils, means it will take time to form an exact picture of how many councils each party has won.