French socialists aim for majority in election runoff | News | DW | 17.06.2012
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French socialists aim for majority in election runoff

France is voting in second-round parliamentary elections amid deep uncertainty within the euro currency union. President Francois Hollande is hoping to secure a majority for his Socialists and their allies.

French voters are at the polls on Sunday in a parliamentary runoff election, with President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party expected to secure a comfortable legislative majority.

The vote comes a week after the first round of the election, in which just 36 candidates secured the 50 percent majority needed to win a seat outright in the 577-member National Assembly. Most the remaining 541 constituencies are two-way races. Just 34 of the still contested seats are three-way battles between candidates who won the qualifying 12.5 percent.

An opinion poll published on Friday by Ipsos Logica Business Consulting projects that Hollande's Socialists could win between 284 and 314 seats altogether. With their Green Party allies expected to secure between 14 and 20 seats, the center-left is very likely to attain a 289-deputy parliamentary majority.

If those projections prove true, then the left is looking at its largest parliamentary win in over 20 years. President Hollande, who beat conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in the May 6 presidential election, needs a strong legislative base to push through his agenda of higher taxes and stimulus spending.

The radical Left Front, meanwhile, is expected to come out with between 12 to 13 seats. Former president Sarkozy's conservative UMP party is expected to win between 192 and 226 seats. Marie Le Pen's far-right National Front is hoping to make it into parliament for the first time since the 1980s with a projected three seat pickup.

Eurozone crisis looms large

A big win for Hollande would strengthen the French president's position at the European level, particularly in his ideological battle with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over whether to ease strict austerity in favor of growth measures.

Hollande has spoken out in favor of Eurobonds, which would collectivize eurozone debt in a bid to drive down borrowing costs for crisis countries. He has also called for a banking union with a pan-European deposit guarantee. Chancellor Merkel has rejected those proposals as premature until eurozone members make a decisive move toward a fiscal union.

The French election, however, could be overshadowed by the parliamentary polls in Greece. If the far-left SYRIZA wins control of the government in Athens and rejects the bailout terms as promised, then Greece would likely exit the eurozone. That could have a cascade effect on other highly indebted eurozone nations, such as Italy and Spain.

slk/msh (AFP, Reuters)