Pressure on French Socialists to win June parliamentary elections
Issued on: Modified:
Campaigning kicked off on Monday for French parliamentary elections which newly-elected President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party must win, if he is to deliver on his election promises.
The Socialists took control of the upper house Senate last year for the first time and on May 6 their candidate Hollande beat incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy of the right-wing UMP party to become president.
Now they need to wrest control of the National Assembly from the UMP to avoid the partial political paralysis the French call "cohabitation", where the presidency and parliament are controlled by different parties.
The two-round vote on June 10 and 17 will see over 6,500 candidates of all political flavours battle it out for 577 seats, and Hollande's government spokeswoman on Monday stressed the importance of a Socialist majority.
"The French must understand one thing, that there would be a really major political crisis if the right came to power in the parliamentary election," said Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
"The result would be that Francois Hollande's undertakings, for which people voted, would not go through because each time he tries to pass a law it will be blocked at the National Assembly," she told French radio.
The UMP currently has 314 seats in the Assembly, while the Socialists have 204.
The presidential vote was seen by many as a protest vote against Sarkozy's abrasive personality. The relatively narrow Socialist victory (51.6 percent to 48.4 percent) indicates that the UMP without Nicolas Sarkozy could score well.
The election will also be a litmus test for Marine Le Pen's far-right anti-immigrant National Front party, after she won almost 18 percent of votes in the first round of the presidential election.
Communist-backed Left Front presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who only won 11 percent, has chosen to confront Le Pen head-on in her stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, a rundown former mining constituency near the northern city of Lille.
The National Front currently has no MPs, while the Left Front is part of the Democratic and Republican Left grouping in parliament that has 20 MPs.
In any constituency where no candidate took more than 50 percent in the first round, those who win the support of more than 12.5 percent of eligible voters then face each other in the run-off.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe