Sarkozy party heading for landslide in parliament

11th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 11, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy looked set to gain a resounding new mandate for his programme of reforms Monday, after the opening round of legislative elections delivered a large majority for his right-wing political party.

PARIS, June 11, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy looked set to gain a resounding new mandate for his programme of reforms Monday, after the opening round of legislative elections delivered a large majority for his right-wing political party.

One month after his election victory over the Socialist Segolene Royal, Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) won 45.5 support in the first of two rounds of voting for the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. The opposition Socialist Party (PS) had 39 percent.

If the trend continues in next Sunday's second round of voting, the UMP and its allies can expect to win an overwhelming majority of between 383 and 501 seats in the 577-member Assembly, with the PS controlling between 60 and 185.

The UMP currently has 359 seats, compared to the Socialists' 149.

Participation in Sunday's vote was a record low at 60.5 percent, indicating the widespread feeling that last month's presidential election was the more important democratic moment.

Both the UMP and the PS urged voters to turn out in greater numbers next Sunday, to boost or to check the momentum behind Sarkozy's ambitious reform programme.

In the French system, a second round of voting is required in constituencies -- in practice most of them -- where no candidate reaches 50 percent of the registered vote in round one. Only those who win 12.5 percent or more in round one qualify for the run-off.

Sarkozy has promised to convene a special session of the National Assembly in July, in order to push through a first raft of laws including tougher sentencing rules, restrictions on immigration and greater autonomy for universities.

His prime minister Francois Fillon has also prepared a tax and finance bill whose aim is to "provoke a shock to spur confidence and growth".

The main provisions are to exempt overtime work from taxation, make mortgage interest payments tax deductible, eliminate inheritance tax for all but the wealthiest, and put a 50-percent cap on overall individual taxation.

French newspaper commentators of all stripes acknowledged the scale of Sarkozy's new victory, describing the UMP gains as a "blue wave," a "tidal wave," or a "flood".

In a leading article entitled "A new France takes shape," the right-wing newspaper Le Figaro said that the French have shown that "they want change and they want it fast."

For the popular daily "Le Parisien", the low turn-out was a sign that "voters -- of left as well as right -- believe that the real decision was made when Nicolas Sarkozy won his presidential victory."

But several commentators warned that a crushing majority for the UMP could be bad for democracy, with Sarkozy unchecked by any serious opposition.

"We risk heading for single party rule in parliament unless voters make more of an effort to stop it next week," said the Communist daily L'Humanite.

The first round results spelled catastrophe for the smaller political parties, none of whom can expect to reach the 20 members required to constitute a parliamentary bloc.

The Communist Party (PC), once France's biggest, looks set to fall from 21 seats to between 6 and 12, while the new centre party Modem of third-placed presidential candidate Francois Bayrou can expect four at most.

The far-right National Front (FN) had its worst score since 1981, with just 4.7 percent, and will once again be without a seat in the Assembly.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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