Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - Page 7 News List

French Socialists enjoy free rein after fresh election win

AFP, PARIS

The road was clear yesterday for France’s Socialists to push through their tax-and-spend agenda to battle the eurozone debt crisis after clinching an absolute majority in parliamentary polls.

After Francois Hollande’s victory in the presidential election last month, the Socialists — who already dominated the Senate — took control of the National Assembly by winning 314 out of the house’s 577 seats.

The result means they will not need to rely on the Greens or the far left to pass laws.

The far-right National Front was set to return to parliament for the first time since 1998 after winning at least two seats in the south of the country, although party leader Marine Le Pen lost her own bid for a seat.

Hollande, who defeated right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in the May presidential election, had urged voters to give him the MPs he needs to steer France through the eurozone crisis, rising unemployment and a faltering economy.

Beyond Hollande’s election promises of job creation and tax hikes, the government will have to pass unpopular measures to bring the deficit below 3 percent of GDP.

Hollande was due to hold G20 talks in Mexico Monday, flush with electoral success and brandishing a further mandate to push for growth strategies — rather than austerity measures — to battle the eurozone’s debt crisis.

He has also floated a proposal for a 120 billion euro (US$150 billion) “growth pact” to be discussed at a series of high-level meetings ahead of a European Union summit on June 28 and 29 in Brussels.

The Socialists and allies won 50.34 percent of votes overall, interior ministry figures said, almost as high as the record 54 percent won shortly after Francois Mitterrand became France’s last Socialist president in 1981.

As result estimates came in, UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope said he “took note of the left’s victory” and said his party would constitute a “responsible and vigilant opposition.”

With the French voting for the fourth time in eight weeks after electing their first Socialist president in 17 years, turnout was a record low for a second-round parliamentary vote at 56 percent.

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