Socialist win majority in French parliamentary elections
France's Socialists won control of parliament in a run-off vote Sunday, handing President Francois Hollande the convincing majority needed to push through his tax-and-spend agenda, estimates said.
The Socialists' bloc obtained between 308 and 320 seats -- an absolute majority in the 577-seat National Assembly -- and so will not need to rely on the Greens or the far left, polling institutes CSA, Ispsos and Sofres said.
Hollande, who defeated right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in a May presidential election, had urged voters to give him the MPs he needs to steer France through the eurozone crisis, rising unemployment and a faltering economy.
Sarkozy's UMP and the New Centre won between 221 and 231 seats, the Socialist-allied Greens 20 seats and the far-left Left Front 10, the polling institutes said, with the centrist MoDem winning two seats.
While Marine Le Pen's anti-immigrant and anti-EU National Front (FN) was set to take between two and four seats, returning an MP to parliament for the first time since 1998, party leader Le Pen herself will not be among them.
Her Socialist rival claimed a narrow victory over Le Pen who has said her success in the first-round parliamentary vote made her party France's "third political force", in a former mining constituency in northern France.
"It seems that we are a few votes ahead," Philippe Kemel told journalists in Henin-Beaumont, although sources close to Le Pen said the result was so tight that she was demanding a recount.
"Marine Le Pen is asking for a recount of the votes. There is only a 120 vote difference," one source said.
Party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen said that his 22-year-old granddaughter Marion Marechal-Le Pen had won her seat in the southern Vaucluse region, with official results saying the FN won a seat in the nearby Gard constituency.
The media spotlight was also focused on Segolene Royal, Hollande's former partner and mother of their four children, who conceded defeat in her battle after a dissident Socialist candidate refused to stand down.
Royal, whose campaign was shaken when Hollande's current partner Valerie Trierweiler tweeted her support for dissident Olivier Falorni, slammed what she called a "political betrayal".
"I ran a tough but straight and loyal campaign," she said in bitter but
brief remarks in La Rochelle in western France.
While some commentators predicted the end of Royal's political career, the 2007 presidential candidate beaten by Sarkozy said she planned to "continue to have an impact on national policy decisions."
As result estimates came in, UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope said he "took note of the left's victory" and said his party would constitute a "responsible and vigilant opposition."
"I solemnly call for the unity of our political family," Cope said, calling
for a party leadership election in November.
With the French voting for the fourth time in eight weeks after electing their first Socialist president in 17 years, turnout was a record low for a second-round parliamentary vote at 56 percent.
Already in control of the Senate and nearly all regional governments, the parliamentary majority gives the Socialists a free hand to implement reforms despite the right urging voters to check the left's power in the vote.
Hollande now heads to Mexico for G20 talks on Monday flush with electoral success and brandishing a further mandate to push for growth measures to battle the eurozone's debt crisis rather than focus on austrity.
He has also floated a proposal for a 120 billion euro "growth pact" to be discussed at a series of high-level meetings ahead of a European Union summit on June 28-29 in Brussels.
Voters in a working-class area of northeastern Paris said they were backing the Socialists so Hollande could push forward with reforms.
"I voted for the Socialist Party. It has been a long time since they were in power and they must be supported now," said William Lameth, a 39-year-old waiter.
"We need reforms in this country and with a majority Hollande will be able to do what needs to be done," he said.
Casting his ballot in the northwestern city of Nantes, Prime Minister
Jean-Marc Ayrault urged voters to give Hollande a "clear, coherent and strong majority".
"We will have to make choices that will sometimes be difficult... so we
must be strong," said Ayrault, who was among 36 candidates not facing a run-off after taking more than half the votes in the first round.