France's far-right National Front party appeared on course for a historic victory in the first round of regional elections on Sunday, winning more than 30 per cent of the vote and delivering a stunning blow to the country's traditional parties.
In the first test of public opinion since the November 13 terrorist attacks, the anti-immigration party of Marine Le Pen looked set to notch up its best result since it was founded in 1972.
An early, and partial, official count suggested the FN was ahead in six of the country's 13 regions. Projections suggest the result, if confirmed, could be sufficient to win up to four regions in the second round on Sunday.
Ms Le Pen, described the result as "magnificent", adding that it showed that the FN was now "without contest the first party of France".
She was leading as FN candidate in the northern region of France with more than 40 per cent of the vote while Marion Marechal-Le Pen, her niece, was also in the lead with more than 40 per cent of the vote in the south-eastern region of the country.
Victory in even just one of France's 13 regions — definitive results will be known after next Sunday's second-round vote — would be a first for the FN, helping to build momentum as it looks to the 2017 presidential contest, in which Ms Le Pen intends to run.