The left wing of French politics has dealt a bitter blow to the party of President Sarkozy in the final round of regional elections.
The Socialist Party and its allies look set to carry off all but one of France’s 22 metropolitan regions, having stolen Corsica from the centre-right.
The Socialist leader said it was also a mid-term verdict on Sarkozy. Martine Aubry said:
“By voting but also, for many people, by abstaining, the French people have also expressed their rejection of the policies of the president and his government. I really believe that they have punished an unfair policy, of fiscal gifts for the most privileged to the detriment of employment and the fight against unemployment and to the detriment of the purchasing power.”
Just over half of registered voters went to cast their ballots. Of them, 54 per cent backed the left, while around 35 per cent for Sarkozy’s UMP. The far-right National Front won just over nine per cent of the vote.
Few were surprised but the mood at UMP headquarters was still glum. Ten percent unemployment and opposition to justice and pension reform have taken their toll on the government. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said in a televised address:
“We weren’t able to convince (the public). The balance of power established in the 2004 regional elections remains globally the same and that is a disappointment for the UMP. I accept my part of the responsibility.”
Fillon will attend a meeting this morning with the president but it is unlikely his will be one of the heads to roll. This defeat is widely seen as a message of discontent directed at Sarkozy himself.