Hollande's left eyes solid win in French parliament vote

PARIS Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:30am EDT

1 of 5. France's President Francois Hollande enters the voting booth in the legislative elections at the polling station in Tulle June 10, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Caroline Blumberg

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PARIS (Reuters) - Two polls showed French President Francois Hollande's Socialists winning outright control of parliament in a weekend election as campaigning drew to an end on Friday, offering him the prospect of a free hand to confront the debt-induced crisis in Europe.

The Ipsos and OpinionWay polls suggested the Socialist bloc would secure more than the 289 seats needed to control France's National Assembly without relying on euroskeptic hardliners or even their preferred coalition option, the Greens party.

Socialist heavyweights nonetheless made last-minute appeals to voters to turn out in large numbers on Sunday to ensure the left wins control of the 577-seat lower house of parliament for the first time in a decade.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault urged voters to deliver the clearest possible win, including in a high-profile battle where Hollande's former partner, Segolene Royal, is expected to lose her bid for a seat.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius brandished the threat of chaos for France and Europe if, contrary to what all the polls signal, the right won power in parliament and forced Hollande into five years of left-right co-habitation.

"That would be totally unmanageable," he told France Inter radio. "That's why I call for a vote that will bring coherence not a shambles."

The election in Europe's second-largest economy risks being overshadowed on the day by a Greek election that some consider make or break for the country's survival within the euro zone, and even the existence of the euro zone itself.

Hollande, the country's first Socialist leader in 17 years, faces the enormous task of rebooting the economy, slashing its debt and overcoming German resistance to his calls for less draconian austerity measures in Europe.

The polls, published on the last day of campaigning, revealed an improvement in left-wing prospects following the first round vote on June 10 and gave Hollande good reason to believe he will not be hamstrung by a hostile parliament.

The Ipsos poll gave the Socialists - including the Socialist Party proper and two small but loyal offshoots called the PRG and MRC - taking between 298 to 331 seats.

The Greens, who have an election pact with the Socialists and two people in the interim government Hollande appointed in mid-May, were seen by Ipsos taking 14 to 20 seats, and the hardline Left Front 12-13.

The OpinionWay poll gave that same Socialist bloc a score of 295 to 330 seats. It saw the Greens taking 12 to 18 seats and the Left Front 8 to 12 seats.

The center-right UMP party was seen taking between 192 and 226 seats, that would be its worst score in some 30 years, in the Ipsos poll and between 200 and 230 in the OpinionWay poll.

Among the high-profile battles for National Assembly seats are two competitions in northern and southern France where the far-right National Front party boss Marine Le Pen and her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, are hoping to get their party into parliament for the first time in a quarter of a century.

In another bruising battle, two polls suggest that Segolene Royal, the Socialist who lived with Hollande for some 25 years, will lose badly to a left-wing dissident who defied Socialist Party orders to stand out of her way.

That contest turned into a national political drama this week when Hollande's current partner, Valerie Trierweiler, sent a Twitter message of support to Royal's rival, Olivier Falorni.

(Additional reporting by Vicky Buffery and Daniel Flynn; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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