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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.

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