But the news was not all bad for the Socialists with the defeat of Alain Juppe, France's de-facto deputy prime minister, to a little-known Socialist candidate, Michele Delaunay, in his Bordeaux constituency.
 
Juppe immediately announced he would quit the government.

 

Juppe announced he would resign from the
government on Monday [AFP]
Pollsters had predicted after the first round vote on June 10 that the ruling centre-right would win up to 470 seats, but its popularity suffered a beating in recent days after ministers admitted they were considering a sharp hike to sales taxes.
 
Sarkozy's UMP party had 359 seats and its centrist allies 29 seats in the outgoing parliament, while the Socialists had 149.
 
Outgoing parliament

About 35 million people were expected to vote for National Assembly deputies in 467 constituencies where there was no winner in the first round a week ago.

 

The first-round parliamentary vote a week ago saw a record low voter turnout of barely 60 per cent.

 

The first round saw 110 seats filled outright - all but one by UMP members - in constituencies where a single candidate took more than 50 per cent of the vote. The 467 remaining seats went to the runoff.


Sarkozy had urged voters to back his agenda for change with a powerful majority and his start to his presidency has proven popular with voters and driven the right's campaign.

The Socialists have been in crisis since the presidential election in May and have tried to play on the fear that a huge majority for Sarkozy would render parliament a rubber stamp for his policies.

 

Socialist split

 

Meanwhile, in a book due to be published this week, Segolene Royal, the defeated French Socialist presidential candidate, has allegedly split from her partner, Francois Hollande, the Socialist party leader.

 

Royal, right, has allegedly split with her partner
and party leader, Francois Hollande [AFP]
"I have asked Francois Hollande to leave our home, to pursue his love interest which is now laid out in books and newspapers and I wish him happiness," Royal said in an interview for the book to be published Wednesday.

 

Royal did not name the other woman in Hollande's life but said she and the Socialist leader "remain on good terms". "We talk to each other. There is mutual respect," the she said.

 

Royal, 53, and Hollande, 52, had been together for more than 25 years and have four children: Thomas, Clemence, Julien and Flora, aged between 22 and 14.

 

Extraordinary session

Sarkozy's government has already scheduled an extraordinary session of the new parliament for June 26 to begin passing some of his reforms.

Those include loosening the 35-hour work week, guaranteeing minimum service during public-transport strikes and getting tough on repeat lawbreakers and illegal immigration.

 

The French president is expected to quickly complete his governing team after Sunday's vote.

 

Half a dozen or so junior ministers could include ethnic minority figures, non-UMP politicians and maintain a rough ministerial parity between the sexes.