France holds first elections since Paris attacks

France votes in regional elections after Paris attacks as right-wing parties eye large gains

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

French National Front political party leader and candidate Marine Le Pen casts her ballot during the first round of the regional elections in Henin-Beaumont, France, December 6, 2015.

Updated Dec 7, 2015

Polling stations opened in France on Sunday for the first round of regional elections less than a month after the terror attacks on Paris.

The elections are widely seen as a gauge of public support for the government’s response to the attacks that killed 130 on Nov. 13 as well as a test for the far-right National Front, which is expected to make gains.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy's Les Republicains party is anticipated to win a majority of the 13 regions.

The vote is the first since the country redrew regional borders in August, reducing the number of regions from 22.

Polls opened at 8 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) and 44 million are eligible to vote. A second round is to be held on Dec. 13.

Voters will elect more than 1,600 regional councillors from nearly 21,500 candidates in France and the overseas departments of Guadeloupe and Reunion to serve a five-year, three-month term.

Elections will also be held for representatives in Corsica, French Guyana and Martinique.

Recent polls suggest a strong rise in support for the National Front, despite President Francois Hollande’s recovery in opinion polls since the Paris attacks.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen is expected to take the northern Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region and her niece Marion Marechal Le Pen leads the polls in the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur.

Les Republicains and the National Front are likely to receive around 30 percent of votes each, according to opinion polls. Hollande's Socialist Party is trailing on around 22 percent and seems likely to lose control of some regions.

The regional polls usually see a low turnout due to the relatively limited powers possessed by regional administrations and around 2 million are expected to vote.

The National Front is hoping a strong performance will boost the party’s chance in the 2017 presidential election.