Left counting cost of ‘Black Sunday'

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault ‘wanted to quit’, report claims, as UMP and FN make gains in local elections

30 March 2014

FRENCH Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault wanted to resign last night, as the extent of Socialist losses in the second round of local elections became clear, it has been reported.

Europe 1 has said that Mr Ayrault was prepared to take full responsibility for the debacle at the ballot box, which has been dubbed “Black Sunday” for his party, but was talked out of falling on his sword by his aides.

Speculation, however, is mounting that the under-pressure Prime Minister may be out of a job by the end of the week, with interior minister Manuel Valls favourite to take over.

Latest figures show President François Hollande’s party lost control of 155 towns and cities across France with populations of more than 9,000 people. The centre-right UMP enjoyed the greatest gains at the Socialists’ expense, while candidates of Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National won election races in 10 towns, to add to the one it won in the first round of voting last Sunday.

Mr Hollande is set to address the nation on TV at 8pm today. Last night, his former partner and Socialist party grandee Segolene Royal declared the results a “severe warning” for the left.

The only piece of good news in a sea of bad for Mr Hollande’s Socialists came as Anne Hidalgo was confirmed as the first female mayor of Paris. She will be officially sworn in next Saturday. But even as she savoured her victory, Ms Hidalgo admitted that there needs to be a change in government.

The UMP, however, is savouring the success of a “blue wave” following the second round of voting. Jean François Copé hailed the party’s best ever showing in the local elections after the centre-right party won Toulouse, Reims, Angers, Limoges, Tours and Amiens.

In total, control shifted in 187 towns of more than 9,000 inhabitants - 171 of them switched from left to right.

The Front National has taken control of at least a dozen towns. After winning Henin-Beaumont in Pas-de-Calais in the first round of elections, the far-right party won control of Beziers and Fréjus in the second round, along with, among others, Beaucaire (Gard), Hayange (Moselle), Le Luc (Var), Cogolin (Var), and Le Pontet (Vaucluse). They also gained their first foothold in Île-de-France, winning the mayoral race in Mantes-la-Ville.

Marine Le Pen said she was confident her candidates would be a success. She said: “We will show that our elected candidates can be good mayors.”

But not all her successful candidates have enjoyed their first day as mayors. Franck Briffaut, the newly elected National Front mayor in the tiny northern France village of Villers-Cotterêts was pelted with eggs this morning.

Meanwhile, there was shock in the small village of Vibrac, Charente. Newly elected mayor Philippe Sauty, who won the seat in last Sunday’s first round of voting apparently committed suicide at the weekend, a day before he was due to be sworn in.

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