Bloomberg News

Hollande Bolstered as Socialists Win French Parliament Control

June 17, 2012

French President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party and its allies won an absolute majority in the National Assembly, exit polls showed, paving the way for them to pass legislation without the aid of other members of parliament.

The Socialist bloc won 314 out of the 577 seats, pollster CSA said, with 289 needed for a majority. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement party and its allies have 228 seats, CSA said, and the anti-euro National Front won two seats. Turnout in the second and decisive round of legislative elections yesterday was 56 percent.

“The French people have amplified their call for change,” Socialist Party Head Martine Aubry, said on France 2 television.

The victory gives the Socialists control of practically every political institution in France -- the presidency, the upper and lower houses of parliament, all but two of the regions and most of the country’s big cities, communes and departments - - a first in the Fifth Republic.

Control of the lower house of parliament will allow Hollande to push through the tough decisions needed amid Europe’s debt crisis. With growth stalling at home, Hollande now faces the task of telling the French people that the state’s depleted coffers may mean cuts in spending and higher taxes as he makes good on his deficit-cutting promises.

“The result means that President Hollande and his government have free reins to continue to govern,” said Thomas Costerg, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in London. “With domestic politics now out of the way, investors’ focus will probably turn to the domestic economy, which has shown recently worrying signs of deterioration, and to the Franco- German relationship, which has yet to reach cruise speed.”

Merkel Ties

Since being sworn in on May 15, Hollande has pushed back against the austerity measures that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had advocated to tame Europe’s debt crisis. Still, Hollande has said growth can’t come from the increase in spending that the communist-backed Left Front has demanded.

The French legislative election coincided with a vote in Greece, where the two largest pro-bailout parties, New Democracy and Pasok, won enough seats to forge a parliamentary majority, pointing to an outcome that may ease concern of a clash that could force the country out of the euro.

Hollande’s “large majority will allow us to lead the battle for growth with our European partners against the politics of austerity,” Harlem Desir, the acting secretary of the Socialist Party, said on France’s BFM television.

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici and Culture and Communications Minister Aurelie Filipetti were among those who won seats, while Segolene Royal, the Socialist presidential candidate in 2007 and Hollande’s ex-partner and the mother of his four children, lost her race.

Segolene Royal

Royal was defeated in a western France constituency by rival Olivier Falorni, a former Socialist party member. Forlani beat Royal 63 percent to 37 percent. The defeat dashes her plan to become the National Assembly president, a position that could have made her France’s fourth most-powerful elected politician.

“I ran a difficult campaign, but a straight, loyal campaign, with a sense of honor and commitment,” Royal said in a speech conceding defeat from the coastal town of La Rochelle.

The Socialists won’t have to rely on the 10 seats won by the Left Front, which said it would support Hollande’s government even if it didn’t agree with on many issues.

The Left Front’s presidential candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, openly supported Greece’s Syriza party, which wants to renegotiate Greece’s European Union aid agreements.

Hollande has said Greece must abide by its rescue deals, even if he has also spoken about the need for growth measures.

Strong Opposition

Sarkozy’s UMP pledged to use its position as the second- largest group in parliament to present a strong opposition.

“Even though we have been defeated, we will be united and become a constructive opposition to avert irreparable damage in education and public spending,” said Rachida Dati, a former justice minister in Sarkozy’s government.

Marine Le Pen, the head of the anti-euro National Front, lost her bid to sit in parliament, although her 22-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen won her seat in southern France, becoming the first member of her party to hold a seat in parliament.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@loomberg.net


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