French far-right 'in second place'
Election projections for more than 2,000 councils across France show conservatives taking the lead, blunting the rise of the far-right National Front.
The initial projections gave the UMP party 31% of the vote compared with 24.5% for the National Front and 19.7% for the deeply unpopular governing Socialists and their allies.
The Socialists were never expected to do well and had pinned their hopes on a high turnout to counteract the National Front. Turnout was 51% for the first of two rounds of voting, compared with about 45% in the same elections in 2011.
Marine Le Pen's National Front party has made steady inroads as she tries to build a grassroots army of local officials to buttress her presidential ambitions.