An abstention rate of more than 55% and significant gains by the far-right Front National party were the key results of the first round of local elections held across France at the weekend. But while it was a severe defeat for President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, the left-wing opposition parties also had little to rejoice over. Stéphane Alliès and Lénaig Bredoux report.
Local elections in France this weekend will provide an instructive test of the strength of parties ahead of next year's presidential elections. The focus will be on the far-right Front National, which opinion polls suggest has recently gained a significant increase in support, and which hopes to maul President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP conservative right party in a number of regions. Stéphan Alliès details what the elections are about, and what's at stake for the parties involved.