World

French Socialist prime minister hails defeat of far right in first-round local elections

  • French far-right leader and National Front Party, Marine Le Pen speaks on the phone after a news conference at party headquarters, Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Nanterre, western France. For Le Pen, today's election for more than 2,000 local councils is an important step in building a grassroots base critical to her ultimate goal: the 2017 presidency. Local elections takes place today and the second round on March 29. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

    French far-right leader and National Front Party, Marine Le Pen speaks on the phone after a news conference at party headquarters, Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Nanterre, western France. For Le Pen, today's election for more than 2,000 local councils is an important step in building a grassroots base critical to her ultimate goal: the 2017 presidency. Local elections takes place today and the second round on March 29. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)  (The Associated Press)

  • French far-right leader and National Front Party, Marine Le Pen poses prior to a news conference at party headquarters in, Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Nanterre, western Paris  France. For Le Pen, today's election for more than 2,000 local councils is an important step in building a grassroots base critical to her ultimate goal: the 2017 presidency. Local elections takes place today and the second round on March 29. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

    French far-right leader and National Front Party, Marine Le Pen poses prior to a news conference at party headquarters in, Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Nanterre, western Paris France. For Le Pen, today's election for more than 2,000 local councils is an important step in building a grassroots base critical to her ultimate goal: the 2017 presidency. Local elections takes place today and the second round on March 29. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)  (The Associated Press)

  • A man casts his vote for the first round of the local elections in Villefranche-sur-Saone, central France, Sunday, March 22, 2015. French voters are choosing local officials in elections on March 22 and March 29 that are expected to bring even more power to the increasingly popular far right National Front party. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

    A man casts his vote for the first round of the local elections in Villefranche-sur-Saone, central France, Sunday, March 22, 2015. French voters are choosing local officials in elections on March 22 and March 29 that are expected to bring even more power to the increasingly popular far right National Front party. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)  (The Associated Press)

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has praised the defeat of the far- right National Front in first-round local elections, and minimized the significance of the third-place finish of his own Socialist party.

The National Front was second in Sunday's vote with 25 percent, behind the conservative UMP party and its allies with 29 percent. Socialists and their allies had 21.5 percent, according to the Interior Ministry's official results.

Valls, speaking Monday on radio RTL, said he was "pleased in some way" to observe that the National Front's support was not as high as expected.

He called for all leftist candidates, including communists and environmentalists, to unite with the Socialists for the second round next Sunday.