France’s far-right National Front saw record gains in the first round of regional elections on December 6 -- a vote held under a state of emergency just three weeks after Islamic extremists killed 130 people in Paris.
According to final estimates from the Interior Ministry that were released on December 7, the National Front came first with about 28 percent of the nationwide vote and topped the list in at least six of 13 regions.
Final estimates showed National Front leader Marine Le Pen winning 40.5 percent of the vote in the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, a former bastion of the left.
Le Pen's party also won more than 40 percent of the vote in the southeastern region of Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur.
The official estimates show that a grouping of center-right parties, Les Republicains and their allies, won 27 percent nationwide.
French President Francois Hollande's ruling Socialist Party and its allies took 23.5 percent of the vote.
The elections were held under tight security following terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in November.
Opinion polls suggested the popularity of the anti-immigration, anti-EU National Front has increased since the attacks.
Any party that secures 10 percent in the first round has the right to present candidates in the second round on December 13.
Socialist Party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis announced late on December 6 that the party is withdrawing its candidates from the second-round vote in three regions of the north and southeast -- leaving Socialist Party voters to support Les Republicains and their allies in an attempt to block National Front candidates from winning.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, the leader of Les Republicains, said late on December 6 that he is firmly against an alliance with the Socialist Party.
But Sarkozy confirmed that conservative candidates would contest the elections in the three regions where Socialist candidates are withdrawing from the December 13 runoff vote.
French regions have wide powers over local transport, education, and economic development.