French Election Results: Conservatives Capture 40 Percent

Regional election boundaries were redrawn after the 2010 election, in which the Socialists had won 21 out of 22 regions. The polling agencies base their projections on actual vote count in select constituencies.

Winning control of one region - let alone six - would have been a first for the FN. First estimations showed he had won by about 54.4 per cent.

The victor in Corsica was not affiliated with a major party. The final results are expected Monday morning, local time.

Newspapers across the political spectrum reacted with shock to the National Front's strong showing in the first round, which Le Pen said indicated that the National Front was now "the first party of France".

"The dynamic is with us", he said.

Former President, Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right republicans are set to win most seats ahead of the ruling socialists.

It is Mr. Sarkozy who appears to have had the best night and he paid "homage" to the voters who helped record an increased turnout of 58%.

The party "doesn't realize that in order to win power, it has to make allies and expand its audience", said Sylvain Crépon, a political scientist and an expert on the National Front. (French) "Tonight there is no place for relief, no triumphalism, no message of victory".

Turnout jumped significantly in the second round, and few of these votes went to the far right.

Jérôme Fourquet, a polling expert, noted that the "Republican front was effective, as a big proportion of the left's voters voted for the right", meaning Sarkozy's party.

"France in moments of truth has always taken refuge in its real values", Valls said, urging his compatriots to "build together" after a particularly bitter election campaign.

Le Pen admitted defeat and blamed the outcome of the elections on collusion between the mainstream parties.

The National Front (FN), boosted by fears about security and immigration after the Islamist militant attacks in Paris a month ago that killed 130 people, had won more votes than any other party nationally in last week's first round. She said those who voted for her had resisted "intimidation, infantilisation and manipulations".

Despite the predicted defeat, Le Pen gave a defiant speech to supporters after polls closed, saying "nothing can stop us now". "By tripling our number of councilors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France".

The French conservative who routed far right leader Marine Le Pen in a critical regional election thanked leftist voters for supporting him and keeping the anti-immigrant National Front from power.

"CRIF welcomes with satisfaction the citizen's reaction which blocked the road of regions to the Front National", it said in a statement. A poll released last week reported 77 percent of Socialist supporters in the regions where the party pulled its candidate had agreed to vote for the Republican party.

In the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Le Pen's niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, is also trailing her rival, Christian Estrosi.

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