25th Aug 2019

Sarkozy free to start economic reforms after parliamentary vote

French president Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party won a comfortable majority in parliamentary elections on Sunday (17 June) – securing him enough leeway to kickstart political and economic reforms – but fell short of the landslide victory predicted before the elections.

The final official results gave the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement 345 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, less than in the outgoing parliament (359) and way below what polls had predicted (up to 500).

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In addition, the new energy and environment minister, Alain Juppe, failed to be re-elected as an MP and said he would offer his resignation.

On the other hand, the Socialists showed the first sign of revival as they increased their parliamentary power from 149 to 207 seats.

"The blue wave that had been predicted...has not taken place. In the new assembly, there will be diversity and pluralism," the centre-left leader François Hollande said.

But despite the set-back for president Sarkozy – believed to be caused by a proposal to raise value added tax to fund social security – he will have enough political strength to push through his reform package.

France, the eurozone's second-largest economy has been running on half-speed for years, annual growth is stuck at around 2 percent, unemployment is estimated to be over 8 percent.

"Your participation has resulted in a clear and coherent choice, which will allow the president of the Republic to implement his project," French prime minister Francois Fillon was cited as saying by the BBC.

Nicolas Sarkozy has already called a special session of the new parliament for 26 June, and is expected to start pushing his plans through parliament. He has promised to reduce taxes, to make labour laws more flexible, to loosen the 35-hour week and to tighten immigration and come down hard on repeat lawbreakers.

On the European stage, Mr Sarkozy is advocating a streamlined version of the rejected EU constitution that is not put again to the French voters in a referendum - something to be hotly debated during the upcoming EU summit on 21-22 June in Brussels.

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