Sarkozy’s party humbled by leftists
The Socialist Party took a strong lead in a first round of regional elections in France on Sunday and its main opposition the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party which is the governing party of President Nicolas Sarkozy is headed for a huge defeat.
The election results, characterized with mass abstentions, was strongly favoring leftist candidates according to official results nearing completion.
This has given the ruling right wing party a stern blow in the last nationwide election before the 2012 presidential elections.
When 96% of votes had been counted, candidates from the Socialist and other leftist parties had won 53.6 percent votes according to the Interior Ministry. The conservative UMP party and other right-wing candidates won 39.8 percent. The far-right National Front outdid expectations with 12% of the vote.
It seems to be favored by voters concerned about immigration and the growing Muslim population. According to polls the Socialists will win with a majority in the second round in all 26 regions of France. The Socialists already control twenty of the twenty two regions on the French mainland.
Sarkozy has dismissed this result as “regional voting, regional consequences,” but indicated his intention to slow the pace of reforms and make a minor cabinet reshuffle. Prime Minister François Fillon said “It’s not over. Everything is open” before the decisive runoff on March 21.
He urged voters who missed the first round to come out for the second round, “at a moment when the economic and financial crisis demands sang-froid, courage and unity.” Jean-François Copé, a leader of Sarkozy’s parliamentary group said “We had massive abstention — that is, an absolute record,”. Sarkozy supporters argued that the “triumphalism” of the leftists had been tempered by the record voter abstention, on television debates.