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June 17, 2012

French Socialists Win Majority in Parliamentary Vote

by Lisa Bryant

PARIS - Initial results show that France's Socialist Party has captured the absolute majority of the country's National Assembly seats in Sunday's runoff elections, giving newly elected President Francois Hollande a strong mandate to carry out his economic policies.  But the French elections were shadowed by those in Greece, which might determine that country's future in the eurozone. 

 

French Socialists cheered their resounding victory, as election results showed they will hold a commanding majority in the lower house or parliament.  Out of power for years, the Socialist Party also commands the Senate.

 

Speaking to the nation, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the new leftist majority is determined to govern in a way that is fair and responsible.

 

But Mr. Ayrault also described the economic challenges for France and the 17-nation eurozone.  He said everything will be difficult, but that France has enormous attributes, particularly its young people.

 

The election results are a blow for the conservative UMP party that commanded the last National Assembly, which is still reeling from the defeat of former president Nicolas Sarkozy in May.  Other longtime UMP members were also defeated in this runoff vote, including former Defense and Interior Minister Michele Alliot Marie. 

 

But the Socialists also suffered some losses.  President Holland's former partner and one-time presidential candidate Segolene Royale lost her seat in the coastal city of La Rochelle.

 

Voter turnout was also low, with more than 40 percent of voters staying home. 

 

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen was also defeated.  But her niece, Marion Marechal Le Pen, won her race. 

 

In remarks to supporters, Marine Le Pen struck a combative tone, describing a new era in which the center-right will fade and the far right will dominate conservative politics. 

 

Many French were closely following another legislative vote on Sunday - in Greece.  Casting his ballot in Paris, retiree Charles Procope said he was anxious about the outcome. "I'm extremely worried.  If the Conservative Party, which stands for keeping Greece with the euro and the European Union [loses], the euro will collapse and it will probably be the end of Europe," he said. 

 

Speaking on French television, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said he is in close touch with his European counterparts on Greece. 

 

Mr. Moscovici said eurozone ministers are issuing a statement calling on Greece to respect its financial bailout engagements, saying they want to help Athens emerge from its economic crisis.  The Socialist governing majority is expected to support President Hollande as he pushes a pro-growth agenda for the eurozone.