Monday, 11 June 2012

Hollande victory in legislative elections almost certain but challenges remain

After Sunday's first round of legislative elections, French President Francois Hollande is strongly tipped to win a majority in the lower house of the French parliament, clearing the way for the Socialist statesman to implement reforms.

Based on a partial vote count, polling institutes showed the left bloc was on track to win up to 353 seats in the lower house. Most suggest Hollande will be able to count on obtaining the 289 seats needed for an outright majority following next Sunday's runoff vote.
According to pollsters, Hollande's socialist government will not be challenged by any right-wing resurgence. A leftist government with a rightist parliament could have thrown a spanner into the new president's plans for economic recovery and cutting the deficit.
However, the Socialist bloc remained anxious and kept pressure on supporters to continue casting their ballots en masse to win the largest majority of seats in the National Assembly in a decade. This would be a symbolic triumph of the Socialists after winning the presidency for the first time in 17 years last month.
"Change is beginning, but everything hinges on next Sunday," Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said after the first round results.
"If you want to help the president, go and vote next week to consolidate the left parties," Martine Aubry, general secretary of the Socialist Party, told the state-run France 2 TV channel.
A total of 48.31 percent of the electorate abstained from Sunday's elections, as opposed to 16 percent at the presidential election, reflecting deep voter disinterest after months of electioneering and a widespread feeling that the left was certain to win.
Voter participation is crucial and one of the deciding factors for candidates vying for seats in the lower house, as they need to secure more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a second-round ballot. Otherwise, candidates need to obtain 12.5 percent in the first round of vote to head to the run-off on June 17.
Hollande needs a large, coherent majority to carry out his elections pledges to increase tax on the wealthy to fund spending and modify the European treaty with more focus on growth and job creation.
The president is expected to unveil new budget measures by the end of this month after the release of a national audit office assessment of public finances that will reveal the health of the French economy.
As for the French right-wing, some candidates still hope they can cause an upset in the run-off.
"I think victory once again is not impossible. They told us about a pink tide but all we have is a ripple," Brice Hortefeux, former UMP interior minister, told RTL radio.
Jean-Francois Cope, UMP general secretary, also reiterated his party would not concede defeat until the run-off.

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