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The Observer: Marine Le Pen's victory in the elections paves the way for her dream of a French presidency

The British newspaper, "The Observer", highlighted France's vote in the first round of regional elections, which could see the far-right party Marine Le Pen making gains, and said that the "National Rally" party is moving forward in the political mainstream.

In Sunday's elections, new councils will be elected in 13 regions of mainland France and 96 provinces, and Le Pen's party is expected to win at least one region for the first time in what could be a major coup.

Although Le Pen is not a candidate, she campaigned aggressively ahead of next year's presidential election that polls show could end up in a tight race between her and centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

Although far-right politicians head a few towns in France, running a region with a budget of billions of euros and having authority over schools, transportation and economic development would give it the kind of legitimacy that Le Pen craves, analysts say.

"What would be great for her, and would create some momentum in the pre-election campaign, would be a victory for the National Rally in a region," said Stefan Zomsteig of polling firm Ipsos.

The elections will be held over two consecutive Sundays, with a second run-off on June 27th unless the parties win more than 50% in the first round.

Analysts say the results in many regions will be driven by local dynamics and a high abstention rate, which limits how well they are seen as indicators of the larger political picture in France.

But the outcome will inevitably shape the narrative in the coming weeks, particularly regarding Le Pen's strength and electability, as well as the state of Macron's Republic on the Move.

A poll by groups Ipsos and Sopra Steria last week showed NCP candidates leading in six of the mainland's 13 regions in the first round, meaning the results obtained Sunday night could point to sweeping gains for the party.