June 18, 2007

Sarkozy Loses Some Steam

New French President Nicolas Sarkozy got his majority in the National Assembly, but managed to look like a loser anyway. Anticipating a massive victory of perhaps 500 of the 577 seats in the parliament, his UMP only won 346 instead. Even more embarrassing, his second-highest-ranking Cabinet minister lost his race and tendered his resignation as environmental minister:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling party won a majority in parliamentary runoff elections Sunday, but Socialists -- contrary to all poll predictions -- gained more seats than they had held in the previous assembly, foreshadowing tough battles ahead for the new government's proposals.

Leftist candidates appeared to be boosted by public fears about Sarkozy's reform efforts, including an announcement last week of a plan to raise sales taxes, and by a low turnout of Sarkozy voters anticipating a runaway sweep of the National Assembly.

Final results from the Interior Ministry showed the ruling Union for a Popular Movement party, or UMP, and its allies on the right with 346 of the 577 parliamentary seats; the Socialist and leftist parties with 226; the centrist Democratic Movement, or MoDem, party with three seats; and other independent parties with two seats. Sarkozy's party won 314 seats, a loss of 45 seats, while the Socialists won 185 seats, a gain of 36 members, according to the Interior Ministry's final figures.

Complacency dented Sarkozy's momentum, apparently. The European press had all but conceded the parliamentary elections to the UMP, and apparently UMP voters took that too much to heart. They allowed the Socialists to eke out a substantial minority, enough to cause complications for the reform measures that Sarkozy wants to begin.

Sarkozy says he still has a significant mandate for change, and the solid majority means that he has some leeway to push it through. However, he'll have to do it without Alain Juppé, his environmental minister. Juppé had been convicted of financial misdealings and wound up losing his seat to a Socialist challenger by just two percentage points.

The Socialists have their share of problems, too. The Socialist challenger to Sarkozy, Ségolène Royale, has kicked her common-law husband and political partner François Hollande out of the house, apparently as the result of infidelity. Hollande, the Socialist party leader, had sparred publicly with Royale towards the end of the presidential campaign, and Royale has told newspapers that she let Hollande free to pursue his "love interest", a fairly clear accusation.

The Socialists have to wonder whether they could have done better without the Bickersons leading the party this year. The Royale campaign consisted of one stumble after another, and with this new information, it seems that their top candidate and their party leader had other issues on their mind than attracting voters. Although they did better than they expected in the National Assembly, they can't help but think that a more focused effort could have produced better results.


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Comments (2)

Posted by always right | June 18, 2007 11:37 AM

And that is why my "stop sign" over the fwance flag on the back of my car has not been removed. I want to see real results instead of lip service that fwench are really changing.

It seemed the fwench people had a second thoughts about their cushy benefits being diminished for real.

Posted by eaglewings | June 19, 2007 7:49 AM

Gee, it takes a brain surgeon to figure out that proposing even more taxes on a beleagured public might reduce their enthusiasm for your party?