[QODLink]
Europe
Regional polls deal blow to Sarkozy
Near-complete official results show gains for France's leftwing opposition parties.
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2010 05:00 GMT
Francois Fillon called on voters to turn out for the regional elections' second round [Reuters]

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has been dealt a blow by French voters, as near-complete official results point to a strong showing by rival Socialists in regional polls.

With more than 96 per cent of votes counted, candidates from the Socialist and other leftist parties won 53.6 per cent of the overall vote, according to the interior ministry.

Sarkozy's conservative UMP party and others on the right held just 39.8 per cent.

Martine Aubry, the leader of the Socialists, called the result "encouraging", saying voters wanted "to express their wish for a more just and stronger France".

The far-right National Front also made gains, picking up a greater than predicted 12 per cent of the vote.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party's leader, appeared jubilant on national television, holding up a poster banned by a court that read "No to Islamism" and declaring that his party's future was bright.

Growing discontent

The UMP's poor showing, combined with an unusually low turnout of 47 per cent for the vote to elect 26 regional councils, is being seen as indicative of discontent with Sarkozy.

"Contrary to the forecasts, nothing is decided for the second round"

Francois Fillon,
French prime minister

Many blame him for failing to protect jobs as France reels from the global economic slowdown, which has sent unemployment soaring to its highest level in a decade, with nearly three million people now out of a job.

"People feel that there is no real debate on the political scene in France, that everything is within an elite and that real matters like unemployment, immigration and insecurity are not there to be debated," Renaud Girard, chief correspondent for the French newspaper Le Figaro, told Al Jazeera.

The Socialists already control 20 of the 22 French regions spread across the mainland and Corsica, along with the four councils in overseas territories.

But Francois Fillon, the French prime minister, went on television soon after polls closed on Sunday, to call on voters to turn out for a second round.

"Contrary to the forecasts, nothing is decided for the second round," he said.

Failed promises

Ahead of his election in 2007, Sarkozy had promised sweeping reforms to make France's economy more dynamic by loosening labour protections.

But he changed his free-market rhetoric when the financial crisis hit, calling for a more "moral capitalism", including limits on bankers' bonuses and in recent days for global regulations of hedge funds.

Stimulus packages and government intervention to keep car-maker Renault from sending car making jobs to Turkey have failed to shore up Sarkozy's approval ratings, down below 40 per cent.

Workers from day cares to oil refineries staged strikes or protests last week, or locked up their bosses to protest factory closures.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
A handful of agencies that provide tours to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea say business is growing.
A political power struggle masquerading as religious strife grips Nigeria - with mixed-faith couples paying the price.
The current surge in undocumented child migrants from Central America has galvanized US anti-immigration groups.
Absenteeism among doctors at government hospitals is rife, prompting innovative efforts to ensure they turn up for work.
Marginalised and jobless, desperate young men in Nairobi slums provide fertile ground for al-Shabab.
join our mailing list