Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) won 314 seats in the 577-member National Assembly, 45 fewer than in the outgoing parliament, according to final official results. Another 22 seats went to the UMP's centrist allies.
Sarkozy's party had been expected to score a "blue wave" landslide after his stunning presidential election win in May. But amid a low turnout, the Socialist Party made a surprise comeback, jumping from 149 to 185 seats. The UMP had 359 seats in the old assembly. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said voters had given Sarkozy "a majority to act" by handing his right-wing party control of the parliament.
Turnout for the decisive second round vote was 59.99 percent, far short of the near 85-percent turnout in the April-May presidential vote.
"A clear and coherent choice"
In an embarrassing blow to Sarkozy, former prime minister Alain
Juppe failed to win a seat in his Bordeaux stronghold and resigned
as environment superminister and government number two.
Sarkozy, 52, had brought the 61-year-old Juppe back from
political exile after his conviction in a party finance scandal and
given him one of the most prominent portfolios in his right-wing
But Economy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said the government had scored a "historic success" in becoming the first ruling party since
1978 to retain control of the National Assembly.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon said France had "made a clear and coherent choice" by giving Sarkozy "a majority to act."
"You voted for change, well that is going to be a reality. We will challenge the habits and taboos that hold our country back," Fillon said. "The time for elections is over, now is the time for coming together, now is the time for action."
No blue wave
But Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande highlighted his party's gains. "The blue wave that was announced and was set to sweep did not take place," he said. He said the left's showing would mean there will be "diversity and pluralism" in the new parliament.
The Socialists had warned voters of a huge UMP majority in parliament would lead to a dangerous concentration of powers and turn the legislature into an annex of Sarkozy's presidency.
Hollande said the result was the sign of voter unease with "unjust
measures" planned by the government, including a possible a hike in value-added tax rates to fund healthcare costs. But the Socialist gains were not expected to bury the party's problems after three successive defeats in presidential elections.
Even as they welcomed the better-than-expected showing, Socialists were jolted by the news that Royal and Hollande, her
partner of nearly 30 years, had separated. Royal accused Hollande of having an affair in interviews for a book to be released this week and asked that he no longer be described as her partner, though she did not specify when the break-up happened.
A new era of French politics
Despite the much-reduced majority, the UMP still became the first French governing party since 1978 to retain its majority in the lower house.
One month after taking over from Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy had asked for a strong majority in support of his campaign pledge to modernise French government, kick-start the economy and toughen up crime and immigration laws.
A special session of the new parliament will open on June 26 to examine the first bills to reduce taxation, encourage overtime, grant universities more autonomy, tighten immigration and toughen sentences for repeat offenders.
Sunday's vote was marked by low turnout as French voters -- heading to the polls for the fourth time in two months -- cast the last ballots in an election season that has ushered in a new era of politics.
Sarkozy, the 52-year-old son of a Hungarian immigrant, has appointed a broad-based government in which prominent leftist Bernard Kouchner is foreign minister and the first woman of north-African origin, Rachida Dati, was named justice minister.
More politicians from the left and from minorities were expected to be appointed to junior ministries following Sunday's result, as part of Sarkozy's vaunted policy of openness.
"Yes, But of the French"
The conservative Le Figaro called the results of Sunday's vote
the "Yes, But of the French" to Sarkozy's reforms in the headline to its story.
"What happened yesterday was certainly not a defeat for Nicolas
Sarkozy because Nicolas Sarkozy has a clear majority, but it
certainly is a warning," wrote the paper.
Le Figaro said the gains made by the Socialists from the first
round of voting one week ago "...is ample proof that if the French
have adopted the idea of reform they aren't ready to accept those
which haven't been amply considered..."
The left-wing Liberation was more dramatic about the Socialist
"The Right-Wing Takes a Left Hook," screamed the daily's
Other left-wing parties picked up 41 seats between them, with 15
going to the Communist Party and four to the Green Party. The nationalist Movement for France took one seat, but the main
far-right National Front won no seats.
Francois Bayrou, who formed a new centrist party to build on his
strong third-place showing in the presidential elections, took one
of three seats won by his Democratic Movement.