France's far-right National Front are set for record-high results in regional polls on Sunday, held under a state of emergency just three weeks after Islamic extremists killed 130 people in Paris.
The National Front (FN) came first with between 27.2 and 30.8 percent of the vote nationwide, and found itself topping the list in at least six of 13 regions, according to early estimates.
FN leader Marine Le Pen and her 25-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen broke the 40-percent mark in their respective regions, shattering previous records for the party.
Speaking after the initial results, Marine Le Pen said: “It's a magnificent result that we will welcome with humility.
“We are without question the first party of France,” she added. “We have the vocation to achieve the national unity that the country requires”.
The polls were held under tight security following the country's worst-ever terror attacks, which have thrust the FN's anti-immigration and often Islamophobic message to the fore.
Around half the 45 million registered voters took part in the polls, which will see the top two parties in each region go to a run-off next Sunday.
— Mabel Berezin (@mabelberezin) December 6, 2015
The early estimates showed Marine Le Pen taking a whopping 40 percent of the vote in the economically depressed northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, once a bastion of the left.
Marion Marechal-Le Pen did even better in the vast southeastern Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur on 41 percent.
A grouping of right-wing parties took between 27 and 27.4 percent, the estimates showed, while the ruling Socialist party and its allies took 22.7-23.5 percent.
FN vice-president Florian Philippot told AFP the results showed they were “very much the first party of France”.
France's regions have recently been consolidated and given more power over areas such as schools, transport and support for local businesses.
The second round of voting will take place next Sunday, which will determine which parties take control of the regions which has been all Socialist run, apart from Alsace.
The National Front are expected to pick up at least two (Nord Pas-de-Calais-Picardie and Provence-aLpes-Côte-d'Azur) with the Republicans and centre-right groups gaining control in most of the rest.
After the vote Nicolas Sarkozy refused to entertain the idea his party would strike deals with the Socialists in order to keep the National Front out of power.
Whether the Socialist party are prepared to withdraw their own candidates to help their centre-right rivals keep the National Front from taking control remains to be seen.