France's municipal voting to test government grip

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PARIS -- France's far-right National Front has conquered a symbolic northern town in Sunday's first round of municipal elections and led in some other cities, drawing calls by the governing left and rival right to stop the anti-immigration party's advance.

The National Front won an outright victory that makes Steeve Briois mayor in Henin-Beaumont, party leader Marine Le Pen's northern outpost. He took 50.26 percent of the vote, eliminating the March 30 final round.

Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said "all forces have the responsibility to ... stop" the far right's march in an election with a participation rate just above 60 percent.

Polls showed the Socialist Party, victorious in 2008, losing ground, but not the crown jewel, Paris, where two women, Socialist Anne Hidalgo and conservative Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, were vying.

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