BRUSSELS - Marine Le Pen unleashed a political earthquake in France on Sunday night, after her National Front party topped the poll in the European elections.
With the polls closed, exit polls indicated that Le Pen's National Front party had won its first ever nation-wide election, with 25 percent of the vote, electing 25 of France's 74 MEPs. Following the vote, Le Pen immediately called for President Francois Hollande to dissolve the French parliament and call fresh elections.
Hollande's governing Socialist party received a drubbing from voters, picking up just 15 percent. Meanwhile, the centre-right UMP, traditionally the dominant force in French politics, also fared poorly, securing 20 percent.
Elsewhere, the liberal Movement for Democracy party claimed 10 percent of the vote, followed by the Greens on 9 percent, and Jean-Luc Melanchon's Left Front taking a mere 6 percent.
The results are set to give the FN 24 seats in the European parliament, the UMP 19 seats, 13 for the Socialists, 8 for Movement for Democracy, 6 for the Greens and 4 for the Left.
"Our people demand one type of politics: they want French politics by the French, for the French, with the French. They don't want to be led any more from outside, to submit to laws," Le Pen told party supporters.
"We must build another Europe, a Europe of free and sovereign nations and freely decided cooperation. Tonight is a massive rejection of the European Union."
Le Pen, who has campaigned on a ticket of withdrawing France from the eurozone and the Schengen, added that "France has been and will be the political heart of Europe. What is happening in France signals what will happen in all European countries; the return of the nation".
The National Front's victory is set to be the first of several spectacular victories for far-right parties, with the UK Independence party and Danish People's party also expected to win their domestic campaigns.
Le Pen will now hope to build a pan-EU nationalist group known as the European Alliance for Freedom in the next Parliament. The National Front already counts Vlaams Belang, the Austrian Freedom party and the Dutch Freedom party as confirmed allies but will need MEPs from at least six other countries to form a group.
Manuel Valls, only appointed as prime minister by Hollande in April following the Socialist's disastrous showing in local elections, described the result as "a very grave moment for France and Europe".
“This result is more than a new warning: a shock, a political earthquake," he said.
Turnout in France was slightly up, at 43.3 percent compared to 40.3 percent in 2009, probably due to more extensive media coverage compared to five years ago.
“These elections show a huge anger against François Hollande’s policies,” said UMP president Jean-François Copé.