France’s opposition UMP has claimed victory after the country’s voters punished the ruling Socialists by abandoning them in their droves.
Some 140 cities swung from the left to the conservatives in municipal elections.
UMP leader Jean Francois Copé called it a“blue wave” of support.
“I want to see how President (Francois) Hollande will react to this message from the polls and I want to know how he will change his catastrophic policies,” he said.
Francois Hollande is likely to react with a cabinet reshuffle. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s government has been accused of being amateurish.
Ayrault is expected to be among the first to go. He has admitted that the vote at a local level as well as nationally, was a defeat for the government.
But there were smiles elsewhere as provisional results showed the far-right National Front was headed for victory in a record number of cities – 11 in all – mostly in the south.
Their leader Marine Le Pen was bullish.
“France is not doing well and this alternation between the UMP and the Socialists doesn’t change anything,” she said. “I think the French people understand this and are trying to find a way out of this mess.”
One consolation for the Socialists was in Paris which they held as the capital elected its first ever female mayor in the guise of Anne Hidalgo.
But generally the message was clear – President Hollande must do better.