Sarkozy looks to 'blue wave' as France returns to polls

6th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 6, 2007 (AFP) - A month after France's hard-fought presidential race, voters return to the polls this weekend for the first round of a parliamentary election which President Nicolas Sarkozy hopes will deliver a resounding majority for his programme of economic reform.

PARIS, June 6, 2007 (AFP) - A month after France's hard-fought presidential race, voters return to the polls this weekend for the first round of a parliamentary election which President Nicolas Sarkozy hopes will deliver a resounding majority for his programme of economic reform.

Opinion surveys indicate that the president's centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) is set for a sweeping victory in the two-round election, which takes place on Sundays June 10 and 17.

According to an IPSOS poll for Le Point magazine Wednesday, the UMP and its allies can expect 44.5 percent of the vote, compared to 36 percent for the left-wing opposition. This result would deliver a huge majority of up to 460 seats in the 577-member National Assembly.

A total of 7,639 candidates representing more than 80 parties are taking part in this weekend's stage of the election. Under France's complex system, only candidates who get more than 12.5 percent of the registered vote in each constituency qualify for round two.

In most cases this means that the second round is a straight right-left run-off, though some constituencies will have "triangulars" with three opponents. The inter-round period is often a week of intensive bargaining to persuade third candidates to stand down.

With his popularity ratings soaring, Sarkozy, 52, is confident of building on his May 6 victory over the socialist Segolene Royal and setting in place the legislative machinery for his five years in office.

The president has promised a special session of the Assembly in July and August to pass a first wave of laws -- including removing taxes on overtime, mortgage tax relief, tougher rules on immigration, university reform, and limits on so-called "golden parachute" pay-offs for company bosses.

Already in a minority in the Assembly with just 149 seats, the Socialist Party appears resigned to yet another defeat, with Royal and other party leaders calling on voters merely to limit the extent of the centre-right's predicted triumph.

Since taking over from Jacques Chirac on May 16, Sarkozy has basked in a three-week political honeymoon.

His new government -- including leaders of the centre and left as well as seven women -- has high approval ratings, and there has been none of the expected backlash on the street from trade unions or youths in the high-immigration suburbs.

According to an IFOP poll in Paris-Match magazine, 67 percent of the French approve of Sarkozy's actions as president, 77 percent think he can reform the country, and 76 percent say the start of his mandate is a success. According to the state statistics office INSEE, public morale leapt by six points in May.

Le Monde newspaper, which was hostile to Sarkozy before the election, describes him Wednesday as a "hyper-president," and said he deserved praise for his "direct style, skill at communication, his omnipresence on every front at home and abroad, and his clear desire to implement promised reforms."

But the newspaper warned that a big victory in the parliamentary vote could lead to a dangerous concentration of powers.

"If the 'blue wave' predicted for the legislative elections is confirmed, Nicolas Sarkozy will exercise undivided power that is balanced by no real counterweight," Le Monde said.

With a UMP triumph taken as a given, Sunday's vote has failed to excite  enthusiasm among an electorate that saw the presidential race as the key democratic moment.

Among the few points of potential suspense is the fate of several cabinet members, including the powerful Environment Minister Alain Juppe who faces a tough left-wing challenge in his constituency in Bordeaux.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said that ministers who lose their National Assembly seat in the election will be excluded from government.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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