UPDATE: 7:00 a.m. EST -- A final tally of all the votes cast in Sunday's regional polls showed that Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front won 27.7 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, the coalition led by President François Hollande's Socialists won just over 23 percent of the votes.
UPDATE: 4:00 a.m. EST -- France’s far-right National Front party, headed by Marine Le Pen, secured a historic victory in the first round of regional elections Sunday.
With 98 percent of the votes counted, the anti-immigration, anti-Europe party came first in six regions out of 13, securing 28 percent of the total votes -- putting it far ahead of coalition headed by President François Hollande's Socialist Party, which has, so far, secured 23 percent of the votes. Le Pen reportedly described the result as “magnificent,” adding that it showed that the National Front was now “without contest the first party of France.”
“The French people have had enough of being treated like a herd of sheep,” she reportedly said.
Marine Le Pen's National Front was leading in six of the 13 regions of France in the first round of regional elections Sunday. Her party's far-right platform has seen a boost in the polls following the coordinated terror attacks on Paris in November that left 130 dead.
French voters took to the polls Sunday in the first election since the attacks, after national security dominated the runup to the vote. The elections were held while a state of emergency order remained in place. The French electoral system works in two rounds of voting, with a second runoff round to take place next Sunday.
Le Pen is president of the National Front and its presumed standard-bearer in the 2017 presidential election on a euroskeptic, anti-immigrant platform. She is currently running for a seat in the the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, where the unemployment rate is several percentage points above the national average, and anti-immigrant sentiment has grown owing to the placement of a large refugee camp in Calais, on the English Channel.
Overall, the National Front won 30.8 percent of the votes, followed by former President Nicolas Sarkozy's Les Republicains (moderate right) party with 27.2 percent and current President François Hollande's Socialist Party trailing with 22.7 percent, BBC reported.
Early polls from Agence France-Presse predicted that Le Pen won at least 40 percent of the votes in Picardie. Her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, won 42 percent of the votes in the Mediterranean coastal region of Provence Cote d'Azur, according to preliminary exit polls. A tweet posted to Maréchal-Le Pen's verified Twitter thanked her voters for their support.
42% ! Merci ! pic.twitter.com/gbHKWidonJ
— Marion Le Pen (@Marion_M_Le_Pen) December 6, 2015
"I expect to gain enough momentum in this first round to be optimistic about the second round," said Marine Le Pen as she cast her vote Sunday, AFP reported. The National Front has never won a single region, and a poll from French survey agency BVA last Sunday predicted the party would win two regions, possibly three.
The regional elections, like the midterm elections in the U.S., are often used as a predictor for general polls, though they do not always accurately predict results. The leaders of all three top parties are planning presidential runs in 2017, and winning support in the regionals allows for a stronger bid for president.