French president Nicolas Sarkozy comes under pressure to rethink policies and reshuffle ministers as his party heads for a damaging defeat in the final round of regional elections. Three parties opposed to Sarkozy have allied in 20 of France’s 22 regions, putting them closer to a possible clean sweep in the final round of elections
France's Socialist Party first secretary Martine Aubry, center, Communist Party secretary general Marie-George Buffet, right, and Green party secretary general Cecile Duflot, left, arrive together for a press conference they gave in Paris. AP photo.
President Nicolas Sarkozy faces a reprimand from voters in the second round of regional elections, France’s last electoral test before the presidential ballot in 2012.
In the first round on March 14, Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement won 26.2 percent of the vote nationwide, its lowest score ever. The opposition Socialist Party took 29.4 percent. For the second and final round on March 21, the Socialist Party has merged with the Europe Ecologie coalition of ecologists and the Left Front alliance in 20 of France’s 22 regions.
The Socialist-led lists will win 56 percent of the vote nationally versus 36 percent for the UMP, according to a CSA poll published by Le Parisien newspaper today. “We should see a confirmation or even a strengthening of last Sunday’s results,” said Laurent Dubois, a professor at the Paris Political Studies Institute. “The game is over.” The UMP has no second-round allies and is counting on some of the 53.7 percent who abstained in the first round showing up for the second. “I ask all the voters of the presidential majority to mobilize,” Prime Minister Francois Fillon said at a campaign rally on March 16.
Lists of candidates winning more than 10 percent on March 14 qualified for the final, deciding round this weekend and they were able to absorb lists that took at least 5 percent. Socialist-Led Lists. The Socialists, ecologists and the Left Front have merged in all regions of mainland France except Brittany, where the ecologists are running alone, and central Limousin, where the Left Front refused to join. In both places, the Socialists led the UMP by more than 10 percentage points on March 14.
In 12 regions where the anti-immigration National Front made it to the second round it will win 14 percent, the CSA poll said, draining potential UMP votes. CSA said 55 percent may abstain in the second round. CSA questioned 839 people on March 17 and 18. It gave no margin of error. Sarkozy, faced with record-low popularity and the highest unemployment rate in 10 years, has largely avoided involvement in the regional vote and made no comment about the first round.
In the last regional elections in 2004, the Socialists and their allies won 20 of the 22 regions, stripping 12 from the UMP. That didn’t stop Sarkozy winning the 2007 presidential elections. With the Socialists aiming to take all 22 regions this time, the UMP could claim a victory of sorts if they fall short, Dubois said. The UMP currently controls only Alsace on the German border and the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
The UMP took 35 percent in Alsace on March 14, its best score. An OpinionWay-Fiducial survey on second-round voting intentions for Le Figaro newspaper put the UMP and Socialist-led candidates there at 43.5 percent each. OpinionWay-Fiducial interviewed 801 respondents on March 16 and 17. The poll, published yesterday, had no margin of error.
In Corsica, where a total of four lists, including two nationalist parties, will compete, the components of the second- round Socialist-led alliance took a combined 40.1 percent to the UMP’s 21.3 percent on March 14.
French opposition parties ally against Sarkozy
Three parties opposed to President Nicolas Sarkozy have allied in 20 of France’s 22 regions, putting them closer to a possible clean sweep in the final round of regional elections. “Out of 44 potential accords, we’ve managed to work out 42,” Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry told reporters on Thursday. “The glass is more than 90 percent full.” The second, deciding round takes place March 21.
Lists of candidates winning more than 10 percent qualified for the final round, for which they could ally with lists making more than 5 percent. New lists had to be completed and submitted to electoral authorities by yesterday evening. The Socialists, the ecologists and the Left Front merged their lists in all regions of mainland France except Brittany, where the ecologists are running alone, and the central region of Limousin, where the Left Front refused to join the others. In both these regions, the Socialists led the UMP in the first round by more than 10 points.
The UMP has no potential allies for the second round and is presenting the same lists. At a campaign rally yesterday, Prime Minister Francois Fillon called on UMP voters to show up to vote. A total of 53.7 percent of France’s 44 million registered voters didn’t turn out March 14. In 12 regions, the anti-immigration National Front of Jean- Marie Le Pen made it to the second round in which it’s likely to drain votes from the UMP. Socialist-led councils currently control 20 regions, with the UMP in charge only in Alsace and Corsica. Sarkozy, who has largely avoided getting involved in the regional vote, has made no comment about the first round.