Sarkozy gets reduced majority for reform campaign

17th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 17, 2007 (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy's right wing party won a clear majority to carry through his reform programme in France's legislative election Sunday but failed to get a widely predicted landslide.

PARIS, June 17, 2007 (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy's right wing party won a clear majority to carry through his reform programme in France's legislative election Sunday but failed to get a widely predicted landslide.

The Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) secured 319-329 seats in the 577-member National Assembly, 30-40 seats fewer than the old parliament, according to projections issued after polls closed in the decisive second round.

Sarkozy's party had been predicted to score a "blue wave" landslide after his stunning presidential election win in May. But the Socialist Party made a surprise comeback increasing from 149 to 202-210 seats, according to the projections.

The Socialists had warned voters of a huge UMP majority in parliament would lead to a dangerous concentration of powers and turn the legislature into an annex of Sarkozy's presidency.

In the final straight of the campaign, the Socialists focused their attacks on a proposal by Sarkozy's government to consider raising value-added tax to finance rising healthcare costs.

Despite the much-reduced majority, the UMP still became the first French governing party since 1978 to retain its majority in the lower house.

One month after taking over from Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy had asked for a strong majority in support of his campaign pledge to modernise French government, kickstart the economy and toughen up crime and immigration laws.

A special session of the new parliament will open on June 26 to examine the first bills to reduce taxation, encourage overtime, grant universities more autonomy, tighten immigration and toughen sentences for repeat offenders.

Sunday's vote was marked by low turnout as French voters -- heading to the polls for the fourth time in two months -- cast the last ballots in an election season that has ushered in a new era of politics.

Sarkozy, the 52-year-old son of a Hungarian immigrant, has appointed a broad-based government in which prominent leftist Bernard Kouchner is foreign minister and the first woman of north African origin, Rachida Dati, was named justice minister.

More politicians from the left and from minorities were expected to be appointed to junior ministries following Sunday's result, as part of Sarkozy's vaunted policy of openness.

Hit by the defeat of its presidential candidate Segolene Royal, the Socialist Party -- which has failed to win a presidential race since Francois Mitterrand stood down in 1995 -- is struggling to chart a course for renewal.

Royal, who remains the Socialists' most popular politician, set her sights on the party leadership after Hollande, who is also her partner, said he would step down -- but she faces opposition from powerful party rivals.

Turnout at 5:00 pm, an hour before the first polling stations closed, was   was 49.58 percent -- slightly higher than in the first round -- suggesting final participation would be similar to last week at around 60 percent.

Participation fell well short of the huge turnout of close to 85 percent in the presidential elections, as French voters show signs of election fatigue.

Other than the Socialists, the Communist Party and Green picked up a handful of seats between them, while the far-right National Front had none.

Francois Bayrou, who formed a new centrist party to build on his strong third-place showing in the presidential elections, was likely to be the only deputy for his Democratic Movement.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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