Wednesday

29th Jun 2022

Sarkozy's party receives drubbing in regional elections

  • The UMP's election result mirrors Mr Sarkozy's plummeting approval ratings (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Voters in France's regional elections on Sunday (14 March) dealt a major blow to President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right party, which lost its pole position to the rival Socialists, amid economic troubles and plummeting confidence in the government's policies.

Early results show that the governing Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) managed to secure just 26 percent of the votes, while the Socialist Party came in first with almost 30 percent of the ballots.

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The country's green party, Europe Ecologie, consolidated its position as the third biggest bloc after scoring 13 percent, followed by the hard-right National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen with almost 12 percent.

Until recently, regional elections passed largely unobserved, due to the limited powers that regions hold in the centralised power structure of France: Regional governments only have a say on matters like public schools or transportation. But the poll is now being seen as an early indication of voters preference in the run-up to the 2012 presidential elections.

The leader of the Socialists, Martine Aubry, a likely presidential contender, said the result was a blow to Mr Sarkozy's government.

"By this vote the French people have sent a clear and strong message of refusal to a France that is divided, anguished and weakened," she said.

Mr Sarkozy did not comment on the early results, but his prime minister insisted the vote was not over. A second round is due on 21 March, but only between the two leading parties, which may result in an even bigger defeat for the centre-right, as green and other leftist voters are likely to back Ms Aubry's party.

French education minister Luc Chatel cited the record abstention rate of about 52 percent as a major factor in the governing party's poor showing. "We are at a crossroads," he said. "It's now up to us to mobilise our voters."

Socialist-led coalitions won 20 regions in the last elections in 2004, with the UMP holding on to just Corsica and Alsace, where the race was too close to call Sunday night. "The left can win all of the regions," said Green leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit, whose party is a natural ally of the Socialists.

France's unemployment rate is currently over 10 percent and the public deficit has reached 8.2 percent of gross domestic product, while unpopular reforms have dented Mr Sarkozy's popularity.

A week ago, an opinion poll published in Le Parisien saw his approval rating sink 4 points in a month to stand at 36 percent - the lowest level since he came to power in 2007.

Magazine

Sarkozy trampled by left in regional elections

President Nicolas Sarkozy suffered a bruising defeat in the last round of France's regional elections on Sunday, with his centre-right party losing in all but one of the 22 mainland regions. Some cabinet ministers are likely to be reshuffled as a consequence.

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