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France's far-right wins 62 seats out of 4,108 but not a local council; conservatives win big

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PARIS — Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen couldn't hide her disappointment Monday 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 percent of Sunday'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 percent of the vote and the National Front won 22 percent, the agency said. Turnout was 49.98 percent.

In an interview Monday with radio RTL, 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 councilors," she said.

It's the latest in a series of elections that have expanded the National Front's presence in French politics, part of Le Pen's strategy toward a 2017 presidential campaign.

Le Pen herself is looking ahead to France's regional election in December.

"I believe that we have serious hopes of success in 4 to 5 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 percent 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 Hollande and 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 percent of council members are women.

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