Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen could not hide her disappointment not to have won one single local council in France's election, but insisted she was satisfied with her party's performance.
Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party and its allies won 46% of yesterday's vote, taking control of 66 of the 98 local councils, mostly at the expense of the left, which lost 25 of them, according to the Interior Ministry. The left captured 32% of the vote and the National Front won 22%, the agency said. Turnout was 49.98%.
In an interview today with radio RTL, Ms Le Pen reminded her audience that that her party won just a single seat in 2011, and 62 of the 4,108 available on Sunday.
"I obviously express my satisfaction. We have multiplied by 62 our number of elected councillors," she said.
It is the latest in a series of elections that have expanded the National Front's presence in French politics, part of Ms Le Pen's strategy toward a 2017 presidential campaign.
Ms Le Pen herself is looking ahead to France's regional election in December.
"I believe that we have serious hopes of success in four to five regions (out of 13 total)," she said.
France's governing Socialists are facing their fourth electoral defeat since President Francois Hollande took power in 2012, reflecting the government's unpopularity due to its failure to boost the lagging economy and lower the 10% unemployment rate.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls had called on voters to choose anyone running, even a rival conservative, to block National Front candidates.
Conservatives gained spectacular victories in Correze in central France and Essonne near Paris, the electoral homes of Mr Hollande and Mr Valls.
They also won some councils governed by the left for decades, including as Bouches-du-Rhone - Marseille and its surroundings - that had been continuously led by Socialists for over 60 years.
Candidates were elected by pairs - one man, one woman - to ensure that 50% of council members are women.