French elections: Hollande braces for drubbing amid far-right gains
Municipal election misery forecast for president with Marine Le Pen's Front National poised to win record number of seats
Kim Willsher in Paris
Sunday 30 March 2014 07.06 EDT
France is going to the polls on Sunday for a second-round vote that is likely to see François Hollande punished with a rise in support for the far right.
The Front National (FN), led by Marine Le Pen, is on track to win an unprecedented number of local council seats and even take control of a handful of town and city halls.
Perpignon, Béziers and Avignon are among 15 municipalities, many of them in the south of France, where the FN is expected to make major gains.
In Paris, Socialist frontrunner Anne Hidalgo was one of the first into the polling booth set up in a local primary school in the 15th arrondissement shortly after 8am.
Met by a gaggle of photographers standing on children's chairs and tables, Hidalgo, who faces a close finish with rival Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet from the opposition UMP party, smiled but said nothing.
Asked if she was optimistic about victory, one of her election team would not be drawn. "Let's just see. We don't want to jinx anything," he said.
Kosciusko-Morizet, who surprised pollsters by winning more votes than the favourite Hidalgo in last Sunday's first round, voted half-an-hour later in the neighbouring 14th arrondissement.
The first-round results were a drubbing for Hollande, whose popularity is at a record low, and his Socialist government.
The president is expected to announce a cabinet reshuffle this week, possibly as early as Monday, with any shakeup likely to see the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, being shown the door, replaced by either Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, or the interior minister, Manuel Valls.
Polling stations close between 6pm and 8pm on Sunday evening, when exit polls will give a clue to the election results, which will not be definitively confirmed until some hours later after votes have been counted.