France votes in key parliamentary run-off

President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party is pushing to gain a solid majority in the parliamentary elections.

    France votes in key parliamentary run-off
    Marine Le Pen, France's National Front head is predicted to win several seats in the parliamentary elections [Reuters]

    French voters will head to the polls on Sunday to cast their vote in a final round of legislative elections, which President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party is battling to ensure a solid majority. 

    Opinion polls and seat projections from last Sunday's first-round vote suggest the Socialist bloc could achieve the 289 seats needed for a majority in the 577-member National Assembly even without adding seats from its Green Party allies.

    Added to its control of the Senate and the presidency, the victory would give the Socialist Party more power than it has ever held and should leave Hollande's largely social democratic and pro-Europe cabinet broadly intact.

    The possible entry of Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front into parliament for the first time since the mid-1980s with up to three seats would be uncomfortable but would not pose any threat to Hollande's power to govern.

    Polling booths open at 06:00 GMT and the last ones close 12 hours later, with some concern over turnout as the nation is asked to vote for the fourth time in eight weeks.

    The abstention rate hit a record of nearly 43 per cent last Sunday.

    Initial results will be released at 18:00 GMT, the same time the world will learn whether Greece has elected an anti-austerity party whose victory would throw its future in the euro zone into question and send shockwaves through financial

    Hollande's chief ministers, including Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, were elected in round one by scoring more than 50 per cent of votes.

    Those in run-off contests, like Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, are expected to win their seats.

    In all, 36 deputies were elected outright last weekend. Of the remaining 541 constituencies, most run-offs are between two candidates, although 34 constituencies will see three-way contests between rivals who all won the qualifying 12.5 per cent.

    A survey by Ipsos-Logica Business Consulting published on Friday, and tallying with other polls, showed Hollande's Socialist bloc could win between 284 and 313 deputies and that the Greens could take 14 to 20 seats.

    The radical Left Front coalition, whose firebrand leader Jean-Luc Melenchon was knocked out of the running for a seat
    representing an economically destitute northern town by Le Pen last week, is set to win just 12 to 13 seats.

    Le Pen's National Front is looking at up to three seats, and the conservatives, fractured since their leader Nicolas Sarkozy was ousted as president in May, are set for 192 to 226 seats.

    The projections are for a bigger parliament win for the left than in the 1997 election, when voters lashed out at the then
    conservative government's attempt at welfare reform, and in 1988, just after President Francois Mitterrand's re-election.

    That would still leave Hollande short of the two-thirds majority he would need for any constitutional changes, such as
    legislation to give EU institutions more power over the budget.

    Hollande faces the risk that opposition lawmakers could demand a referendum in exchange for supporting legislation that many voters would view as undermining French sovereignty.

    The fact voters are already marking Hollande harshly, giving him scores in the low 60s in popularity surveys, suggests they will react angrily if he announces spending cutbacks or big rises in social contributions to meet deficit targets.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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