France's Sarkozy suffers local polls setback

PARIS - French President NicolasSarkozy's conservatives lost ground to the left-wing oppositionand the far-right in the first round of nationwide localelections on Sunday, according to initial estimates.

The decisive second round of the departmental elections forsome 2,000 local councilors will be held on March 27.

Projections broadcast by LCI television based on partialresults, showed the Socialist-led left-wing opposition winningabout 25 percent of the vote, with Sarkozy's center-right UMPparty set to take 16% and the far-right National Frontaround 14%.

It was the last popular vote before next year's presidentialelection, in which Sarkozy is expected to seek a secondfive-year term.

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