French Socialists On Brink Of Gaining Parliamentary Majority
Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party and their allies on the left are in prime position to gain a majority of seats in France’s National Assembly, following a triumphant performance in the first round of parliamentary elections on Sunday.
As a result, President Hollande’s plan to scale back the austerity measures of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy and focus on economic growth may gain full steam.
The Socialists and other leftist parties gained about 46 percent of the total vote, well ahead of the 34 percent tally scored by the centrist-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party of Sarkozy and its allies.
French political pollsters TNS Sofres, Ipsos and OpinionWay suggest that a leftist coalition led by the Socialists could gain at least 283 seats and as many as 329 in the 577-seat National Assembly — a distinct majority — after next week’s run-off.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault hailed the first-round result, calling it a “large, solid and coherent majority” for the Socialist party and its allies.
“Change is going to be around for a while,” he said.
Hollande, who won the presidential election last month, needs a substantial majority in order to push through a series of economic measures designed to scale back the austerity program of his predecessor, Sarkozy, and to foster growth amid a very grim economic backdrop in France (featuring nearly 10 percent joblessness) and in Europe as a whole.
If the Socialists can maintain the momentum in next week’s run-off, Hollande will likely have a mandate to pursue his plan to focus on economic growth in an austerity-draped Europe.
Christian Fraser, BBC correspondent in Paris, wrote: “When you look at the left bloc as a whole, they have more support than the right, they will have a majority in the new parliament and that will ensure that … Hollande can force through the ambitious tax and spend policies that he has set out.”
Indeed, the Socialists already have control of the Senate, the upper house of parliament.
Among other measures, Hollande seeks to hire 60,000 new schoolteachers and slap a huge tax on those earning €1 million a year or more. He is also at direct odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the euro zone’s near-term future and with spending cuts.
Under the interim government of Ayrault, the Socialists have already reduced the retirement age for some employees to 60 from 62 (undoing another of Sarkozy’s policies) and reduced cabinet minister’s pay by 30 percent.
Douglas Yates, assistant professor of political science at the American University of Paris and professor at the American Graduate School in Paris, said that with a solid majority in the National Assembly, the Socialist Party may be able to govern alone — that is, without the Greens or the former Communists — and therefore pursue its legislative program unrestrained by the tug-of-war of multi-party coalition politics.
However, there are real fiscal and economic constraints on pursuing all of Hollande’s campaign promises, Yates cautioned.