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France

French Socialists comfortable parliamentary election win boosts Hollande

Reuters/Max Rossi

French president François Hollande is now well-positioned to try to implement his programme, now that his Socialist Party has an absolute majority after Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

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He now faces the difficult task of trying to implement left-wing reforms in the midst of Europe's debt crisis.

Sunday's parliamentary run-off saw the Socialists win 314 of the Assembly's 577 seats, enough to form a majority without the complication of support from the Greens or far left.

The Socialists already control all but one of France’s regional councils and the local government in most major cities.

The right-wing UMP party of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, whom Hollande defeated in last month's presidential vote, and its allies were reduced to only 229 seats after dominating parliament for the last five years.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Hollande had urged voters to give him a strong majority to implement a traditionally Socialist tax-and-spend programme to steer France through the eurozone crisis, rising unemployment and a faltering economy.

The result will strengthen Hollande's hand as he faces off with eurozone paymaster Germany in his effort to shift the bloc's economic focus from fiscal austerity to growth.

Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the government would move quickly to implement reforms but warned of the difficulties ahead.

"The task before us is immense. Nothing will be easy," he said after Sunday's vote, saying the government's priorities were "restoring public finances, returning to growth, reducing unemployment and making our industries dynamic."

Ayrault is expected within a few days to announce the final make-up of his new cabinet, but few changes from an interim government announced last month are expected, as all 25 ministers up for election won their seats.

The interim cabinet officially resigned on Monday and Ayrault was tasked with forming a new government.

The cabinet will soon need to tackle France's 2013 budget, balancing Hollande's promises of major new spending programmes with vows to reduce budget deficit to zero by 2017.

The new parliament, in which 40 percent are first-time members, will begin sitting on Monday with the far-right National Front set to return to the Assembly for the first time since 1998.

Though leader Marine Le Pen failed by a handful of votes to win a seat, the anti-immigrant and anti-EU party is sending two members to parliament after Le Pen's niece, 22-year-old Marion Marechal-Le Pen, won a seat in the southern Vaucluse region and the FN won another seat in the nearby Gard constituency.

The right meanwhile will focus on rebuilding after its loss and choosing a leader, with UMP secretary general Jean-Francois Cope and ex-prime minister Francois Fillon the frontrunners.

 

 

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