French Socialists celebrate poll triumph
President Francois Hollande's Socialists and their allies are set for a majority following the first round of voting in French parliamentary elections, final results show.
Left-wing and green parties won a total of more than 46% of the vote compared to 34% for the centre-right UMP party, interior ministry figures showed.
The outcome of the polls is expected to determine the extent and pace of reform under the newly-elected French leader, reports the BBC.
Run-offs are to be held next week.
The turnout nationwide was a modest 57%.
France's 46 million eligible voters have been picking representatives for 577 seats in the National Assembly.
TNS Sofres, Ipos and OpinonWay pollsters agreed that the Socialists and their Green allies might win as few as 283 seats or potentially as many as 347. However, potential allies in the anti-capitalist Left Front would take 13-20 seats and ensure a majority.
The communist-backed Left Front, led by Jean-Luc Melenchon, won 6.9% of the vote.
The election also saw a surge in support for Marine Le Pen's far right National Front, which won almost 14% of votes - way beyond the 4% it achieved in the last parliamentary election of 2007.
However, under France's first-past-the-post system, that would give the party only three parliamentary seats at best and possibly none at all.
The BBC's Christian Fraser, in Paris, cautions that it is hard to predict accurately what the final tallies will be before next week's decisive round of voting. In many constituencies there will be a three way run-off.
But with the Senate already under the control of the Socialists, it appears that Hollande will also have a majority in the lower house - even if only with the support of allies - which would give him unprecedented power to force through his reform programme.
Hollande's government is due to present a revised budget plan to parliament next month.
The result of the parliamentary election will determine the pace of reform and how radical it becomes, our correspondent says.
"It's a good result tonight... but we have to remain mobilised for the second round," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, an influential Socialist, was quoted by news agency AP as saying.
It was a big night for Ms Le Pen on a personal level, our correspondent says.
The firebrand leader of the hard left Jean Luc Melenchon had challenged Madame Le Pen for the seat in the northern town of Henin Beaumont. In the end he finished third and last night withdrew from the second round race.