The left swept French regional elections in the second and final round of voting, in what many see as a rebuke of center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy and his reforms. But the victory was not as resounding as expected.
Results showed a coalition of leftist parties dominated all but two of the 26 French regions up for grabs during the second round of voting Sunday. About 51 percent of French voters cast their ballots - a slightly higher figure than the first round last week.
In a televised address, Martine Aubry, head of the leading opposition Socialist Party, said the vote sent a tough message to the center-right government of French President Nicolas Sarkozy - and his ruling UMP party.
Ms. Aubry said the vote amounted to a rebuke to what she described as unjust government policies, which she said included tax breaks for the wealthiest -- at the expense of fighting unemployment and caring for the elderly.
Many analysts agree that French are angry that the government has failed to shelter them from the sharp economic downturn and high unemployment of the past two years. But his own address to the country Sunday night, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the government had registered the voters' message.
Mr. Fillon acknowledged that French are worried that their way of life is threatened. But he said reforms were critical so that lifestyle could be paid for in the years to come.
President Sarkozy faces reelection in 2012. He insists the regional elections are just that -- even as analysts say they amount to a report card of sorts on his own performance. While the right was soundly beaten, observers agree the results could have been worse.
Meanwhile, the far-right National Front Party posted a stronger finish than expected. The environmental Europe Ecologie party also made big strides.