France

Socialists win Paris as right makes gains across France

Anne Hidalgo arrives at her Paris headquarters on 30 March, 2013 as her party braced for country-wide losses.
Anne Hidalgo arrives at her Paris headquarters on 30 March, 2013 as her party braced for country-wide losses. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

French President François Hollande is expected to call for a swift shake-up of his Socialist cabinet after more than a dozen towns and cities shifted from the left to the right in Sunday’s run-off elections.

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While some of the cities represented a symbolic loss, such as Toulouse in the southwest or Limoges which had been held by the Socialists since 1912, the overall losses have further beset the government already suffering from high unemployment and a troubled economy.

While the main opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) came out victorious, initial results projected that the Front National (FN) celebrated further gains as it took at least 14 towns with more than 9,000 residents.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault – who risks losing his position in an expected reshuffle – said Sunday after the results came in that voters had sent a clear message to the government and that action will be taken.

"This message is clear. It must be perfectly understood," Ayrault said as the numbers trickling in suggested a major blow for the Socialists outside of the capital.

The UMP and the far-right FN headed by Marine Le Pen garnered the majority of gains, with the latter falling short of the massive victory it had expected after the first round of balloting last Sunday.

The UMP – the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy who has been embroiled in a string of scandals – took home the majority of wins, including a number of key larger cities and towns that were formally headed by the Socialists.

Head of the UMP Jean-François described the party’s victory as a “blue wave” – the insignia of the conservatives – and said it signalled to the national government an urgent shift in tactics.

However, the key victory of Paris went to Anne Hidalgo - who joined forces with the Green party since coming out second in the first round last Sunday - with 54.5 per cent of the vote on Sunday.

France’s other two largest cities will also hold their allegiances and not shift colours: Lyon will remain left, while Marseille elected its right-wing Mayor to a fourth term.

The FN had the most gains since it won three towns in 1995, and saw a major victory in the French Riviera towns of Fréjus and Béziers, leading its leader Marine Le Pen to declare her party now a major player in French politics.

However, the party failed to secure three towns – Avignon and Perpignan in the south and Forbach in the north – that it had expected to win.

Sunday’s polls concluded the first major balloting since President François Hollande entered office in 2012, and were casted as a thermometer of voters' approval – or disapproval – as former strongholds tumbled to the right.

The message was clear and Hollande’s cabinet could launch a reshuffle as early as Monday, with both the prime minister and finance ministers facing possible removal.

Hollande, who has endured the lowest approval ratings of 20 per cent of any French president in modern history, is expected to address the nation on Monday night.
 

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