Europe

French far-right National Front wins first Senate seats

Frejus mayor David Rachline (R) of the far-right National Front (FN) is applauded after being elected senator in Toulon on 28 September 2014. Image copyright AFP
Image caption David Rachline (R) won one of the two seats gained by the National Front in the Senate

France's far-right National Front (FN) party has won its first two seats in the upper house of parliament, in what party leader Marine Le Pen has described as a "historic victory".

Partial results show right-wing parties are gaining control of the Senate, with final results expected on Monday.

It comes after a strong showing by the far right in European elections in May.

It will be seen as another blow for President Francois Hollande, whose popularity has hit record lows.

Half of the Senate's 348 seats are elected by regional officials across the country every three years.

Gains on the right

"There is only one door left for us to push and it is that of the Elysee [presidential palace]," said Stephane Ravier, one of the two newly elected FN senators.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption National Front leader Marine Le Pen hailed the party's unprecedented winning of Senate seats

Meanwhile, FN leader Marine Le Pen said the results were "beyond what we hoped for".

Partial results indicate that the UMP party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy and its centre-right ally, the UDI party, may have gained a majority of between 10 and 20 seats.

President Hollande's Socialist party still controls the National Assembly, or lower house.

But the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Paris says this result could add further delays and obstacles to his economic plans for the nation.

It could add pressure on him to prove that those plans - which have already divided his own party - can bring results, she adds.

Recent opinion polls suggest President Hollande has become the most unpopular French president in modern times.

He has been hit by a recent cabinet revolt over austerity measures and criticised in a book by former first lady Valerie Trierweiler, who claimed the Socialist leader despised the poor, labelling them "the toothless ones".

The president has vehemently denied the allegation.

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