The first round of France’s two-stage municipal elections got underway on Sunday as losses were predicted for the Socialists under President Francois Hollande.
Voters in 37,000 cities began casting their ballots in what is widely seen as the first test at the polling booth for Hollande since the president took office in 2012.
Ongoing record unemployment and France’s poor economic performance were expected to hit the Socialist Party hard.
Meanwhile, the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement has also come under criticism for internal disputes and scandals.
The National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, was expected to benefit.
About 44.8 million people were registered to vote for a field of 930,000 candidates competing for municipal council seats.
A run-off round would be held on March 30, in places where no candidate wins an outright majority.
One of the most closely watched contests is the mayoral battle in Paris, where two top candidates, Socialist Anne Hidalgo and the UMP’s Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet are competing.
The top candidates are competing to become the capital’s first female mayor.
A recent study published by the Le Monde newspaper suggested that Hidalgo Socialists and other left-wing parties risk losing control of 85 towns and cities out of the 500 they currently govern.