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France

Reshuffle likely after Sarkozy suffers electoral beating

French Prime Minister François Fillon cut a glum figure in Paris on Sunday after polls closed in France's regional elections
French Prime Minister François Fillon cut a glum figure in Paris on Sunday after polls closed in France's regional elections Reuters

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to reshuffle his cabinet after his UMP party suffered heavy losses in the second round of regional elections on Sunday. Sarkozy met Prime Minister François Fillon on Monday morning to discuss the results, which indicate that the Socialist-led opposition earned 54 per cent of the vote compared to the UMP’s 35 per cent

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The left confirmed their strong showing from last week’s first round of elections by gaining control of Corsica at the UMP’s expense. Of France’s 22 mainland regions, the ruling party is now only in charge of Alsace.

"Tonight's result confirms the success of the left's lists. We have not been convincing," Fillon said on Sunday. "This is a disappointment for the governing party. I take my share of responsibility, and tomorrow morning I'll take this up with the president."

The UMP still has a sizeable majority in the national parliament but Socialist leader Martine Aubry said the results represent an “unprecedented victory” for the left.

"The French people have expressed their rejection of the politics of the president and the government," she said.

According to polling agencies, turnout was around 51 per cent, four per cent higher than in the first round.

Sunday was Sarkozy’s last major national electoral test before presidential polls in 2012. His approval ratings were already at an all-time low before the elections and he will now face pressure from within his own party for a change in direction.

Sarkozy’s chief adviser Claude Gueant told Catholic newspaper La Croix that there are likely to be “modest” changes to the cabinet. French radio station RTL speculated on Monday that the first victim of the reshuffle could be Labour Minister Xavier Darcos.

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