French President Jacques Chirac will have to shake up his conservative cabinet following major losses in regional elections against France's political left.
The landslide victory by the left parties suprised even analysts.
National dissatisfaction over the Chirac government's economic reforms swept the socialist parties to their first absolute majority since 1988. They won a little more than 50 percent of the vote and at least 21 of France's 26 regions after polls closed Sunday. Chirac's center-right UMP party managed only 37 percent of the vote.
"The president of the republic is responsible for this," said Jean-Marc Aryault, the head of the socialist party in Parliament. "These cost-saving policies need to be changed. The French have made that clear."
As many as six ministers could get their walking papers, including the finance, environmental and education ministers. Paris was hot with speculation on Monday that French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin might also be let go this week.
The moderate right-winger, who took power in 2002 in Chirac's UMP coalition government, said he would stick by the government's plans to cut spending and reform the social system.
"The reforms must continue, simply because they're necessary," he said in French television on Sunday. "(But) policies must be more efficient and fair, and it is certain that some changes must be made."
Analysts believe Chirac will keep Raffarin on board, having no alternatives and letting time heal the voters' ire.
"Jacques Chirac has time on his side, but the pressure will be very heard to bear in the next few weeks," said pollster Pierre Giacometti, according to Reuters.
France has begun restructuring its state-heavy social system in the past year, much to the dismay of voters. Raffarin pushed through needed reforms in the pension system, but analysts say more is needed, especially in the health sector. The country will most likely violate the EU's Stability and Growth Pact, which sets public spending limits, for the third year in a row in 2004.
In the past weeks, hospital employees, researchers and firefighters took to the streets to protest government cuts.