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Far Right Building Base in French Elections

French far-right leader and National Front Party, Marine Le Pen, prepares to vote for the first round of local elections, March 22, 2015, in Henin-Beaumont, northern France.

French voters are going to the polls Sunday to cast their ballots in local elections.

The elections are widely seen as an opportunity for Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Front -- or FN -- to build a base if, as expected, Le Pen runs for president in 2017.

Opinion polls indicate Le Pen's FN is running a close race against the ruling Socialists of President Francois Hollande and the conservative UMP led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The FN party has been able to capitalize on the politically explosive issues of immigration, the integration of Islam into French society and the party's desire to oust the euro and return to the French franc.

However, analysts said FN will ultimately win in only a handful of elections. In the second-round runoff later this month, many UMP and Socialists voters will likely switch allegiance to whatever party will keep FN out of office.

Some material for this report came from AP, AFP and Reuters.