French President Francois Hollande’s Socialists and allies came out on top in first-round parliamentary elections, poised to secure the majority needed to push through tax-and-spend reforms.
The election also saw a surge in support for Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front, which wants to ditch the euro and battle against what she calls the “Islamisation” of France.
The Socialists, Greens and allies won around 46 percent of the vote, ahead of the 34 percent for ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party and its allies, the final results released by the interior ministry showed.
Pollsters TNS Sofres, Ipos and OpinonWay agreed that the Socialists and close allies might win between 283-329 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly or potentially as many as 329 and could hold power in the parliament without relying of the votes of the Greens or the anti-capitalist Left Front.
Hollande defeated Sarkozy in last month’s presidential election and wants voters to give him a strong mandate to enact reforms as France battles Europe’s crippling debt crisis, rising joblessness and a stagnant economy.
If next week’s second round confirms Sunday’s results, it will boost his status in Europe as champion of the movement away from German-led fixation on austerity towards growth, which he favours as the solution to the economic crisis.
The daily Les Echos on Monday summed up the media mood on the elections, talking of a “measured support for the president.”
A month after Hollande’s victory at the polls, “there was no red wave, and there was an unprecedented failure to mobilise voters,” it added.
Nationwide turnout was put at 57 percent, a record low for a first round of legislative elections.
However Hollande’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, re-elected in the first round voting in the Loire-Atlantique region, hailed the results and urged voters to return to the polls in numbers for the second round to hand a “large, solid and coherent majority” for the Socialist party and its allies.
“Change is going to be around for a while,” he said, echoing the Socialists’ presidential election slogan.
The National Front won 13.6 percent of the votes, far above the 4.0 percent it achieved in the last parliamentary election in 2007.