French President Francois Hollande voted in the first round of nationwide local elections on Sunday knowing his ruling Socialist party faced an uphill struggle if it was to avoid a heavy defeat.
The French leader’s approval rating remains at a record low of 19 percent.
Polls suggest the president’s centre-right UMP opponents, led by Jean-François Copé, will win some of France’s biggest cities, in what is Hollande’s first electoral test since capturing the presidency in 2012.
Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is also threatening large gains at the president’s expense, with the economy stuck in the doldrums and unemployment is stubbornly high.
One city the ruling socialists are expected to hang on to is Paris. The conservative UMP candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet’s efforts to lure the capital’s well- to-do voters have widely been derided on social media, opening the way for socialist Anne Hidalgo.
Either way, one thing is certain, a woman will be in charge of Paris’ city hall after next Sunday’s second round vote.
Turnout earlier was reportedly low, compounding the possibility of even more heavy loses for Hollande’s socialists.