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Voters go to polls for regional elections in France

PARIS, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- Polls across France opened on Sunday to millions of voters to choose regional councillors in a second round of a runoff widely seen as a crucial test for the far-right National Front (FN) party to consolidate its strength as France's third main political force.

Results of last Sunday's first-round voting revealed that the eurosceptics far-rightists obtained 27.73 percent of the vote nationwide, higher than the 26.65 percent secured by former President Nicolas Sarkozy's center-right The Republicans.

However, the ruling Socialists failed to erase poor scores of last year's local end European elections after its candidates collected 23.12 percent of the vote making it the third in the race.

The outcome bolstered the anti-immigrant National Front to change the country's political landscape which was dominated for decades by the left and right camps and challenged for power ahead the presidential election in 2017.

Never having control of a regional council, the FN made a major victory last Sunday with its leader Marine Le Pen winning 40.64 of the vote in France's northernmost area, Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region, while her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen came out first too in the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region with 40.55 of the vote.

For the second round, opinion polls said the FN victory was uncertain mainly because it was isolated in front of "a Republican front."

After last Sunday's losses, the Socialist Party withdrew its candidates from two key regions where the far-right was well placed to win, and called on its followers to vote for the conservatives to make the FN out of power.

Speaking to France Inter radio on Friday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned that the National Front's possible gains in regional runoff would lead to a "civil war."

"There are two options for our country. There is an option which is that of the extreme right, which basically advocates the division which may lead to civil war and there is another vision which is that of the Republic," he said.

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