/ 18 June 2012

Hollande’s socialists storm French Parliament

Francois Hollande has won an absolute majority in the French Parliament.
Francois Hollande has won an absolute majority in the French Parliament.

The left now holds a historic concentration of power in France as it controls both the assembly and the senate. But Hollande faces the difficult task of tackling France’s economic gloom, high unemployment and rising debt.

His plans include raising taxes on the wealthy. An audit of the country’s dire public finances will set the tone for the first summer parliament session, which begins later this month. The prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, appeared to be preparing France for difficult choices and sacrifices in his speech after the vote, saying: “The task ahead of us is immense.”

The Socialists are predicted to take between 308 and 320 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, well over the required 289 for an outright majority.

One outcome of the night was the two seats won by the far-right Front National, which will sit in Parliament for the first time since 1986.

Marion Maréchal Le Pen, the 22-year-old granddaughter of the Front National’s figurehead, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won a seat in the southern constituency of Vaucluse.

A law student who sat her exams during the campaign, and denied being pushed into running for Parliament by her famous family, becomes the youngest French MP in modern history.

The lawyer Gilbert Collard also won a Front National seat in the Gard in southern France. He said he would be on “a democratic ball-breaking mission” in the assembly.

High-profile struggle
The Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, was beaten after a high-profile struggle in the northern constituency of Henin-Beaumont, losing by 114 votes to a Socialist and has demanded a recount.

An MP for the far-right Southern League was also elected in the south. The last Front National MP was elected in 1997 but the result was annulled over funding irregularities.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party, which had led the assembly for a decade, is braced for a bitter internal leadership battle after a low score and the defeat of key figures such as Claude Guéant, the hardline former interior minister and Sarkozy ally, who was running for first time, and ex-minister Nadine Morano.

The party had been under fire for courting the far-right vote and will now begin soul-searching over it positioning.

The centrist presidential candidate François Bayrou was defeated in his fiefdom in Pau.

The Green party, thanks to an election deal with the Socialists, won around 19 seats and will form a Green parliamentary group for the first time in France.

Dissident candidate
One of the biggest upsets for the Socialists came in La Rochelle, where the Socialist former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal was beaten by a dissident candidate expelled from the Socialist party for standing against her.

Royal’s battle was at the centre of a presidential private-life saga this week when Hollande’s partner, the journalist Valérie Trierweiler, tweeted her support of the dissident.

Hollande had backed Royal, who was his partner for 30 years and is mother of his four children.

The Socialist party leader Martine Aubry promised the new Parliament would be more representative of France, with more women and MPs from France’s diverse ethnic make-up.

In the last Parliament there was only one black MP representing mainland France. As final counts continued, the exact number of women or ethnic minority MPs was unclear.

In the last of four elections in two-months, including the two-round presidential race, there was a notably low turnout of about 56%. – © Guardian News and Media 2012