Victory for French socialists and allies in legislative election first round
French President François Hollande's Socialist Party and its allies are leading in the first round of parliamentary elections on Sunday according to exit polls which means he could win the majority needed in the National Assembly to push through tax-and-spend reforms.
The election also saw a surge in support for Marine Le Pen's Front National, which wants to ditch the euro.
The Socialist Party and allies took around 40 per cent of the vote against 35 per cent for the right wing UMP. The communist-backed Left Front of Jean-Luc Mélenchon garnered around seven per cent and the FN, 13 per cent.
The question now is whether the Socialist Party and its Green Party allies will have an absolute majority or whether they will need to call on the support of Mélenchon who has refused so far to play a role in government.
Voter turnout was estimated at under 60 per cent which was below the figure for the previous legislative elections in 2007.
More than 6,500 candidates were competing to fill the 577 seats in the National Assembly - 40 per cent of these are woman. There are also 11 new seats to represent French voters who live abroad. The left already holds a majority in the upper house Senate, which is indirectly elected.
Voting takes place under a constituency-based simple majority system, but in two rounds. If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent in the first round, any contender with more than 12.5 per cent of the vote is allowed to stay in the race for the second round.