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French Elections Expected to Give Overwhelming Parliamentary Majority to President

Voters in France will cast ballots Sunday in the first round of legislative elections which are expected to hand an overwhelming parliamentary majority to President Nicholas Sarkozy.

The polls open Saturday for close to a million French citizens living in overseas territories.

More than 44 million citizens are eligible to vote for delegates in the 577-seat National Assembly. Only candidates who win a majority of votes will automatically get a seat. In races with no majority, top candidates will qualify for the second round of balloting on June 17.

Political analysts say that President Sarkozy's support has grown since his election last month and that his center-right UMP party will easily win a majority. The more seats his party gets, the easier it will be for the president to pass his proposed economic reforms.

Mr. Sarkozy wants to cut taxes and benefits and make it easier for companies to hire and fire. His rival in the presidential race, Socialist Segolene Royal, campaigned for her party, but is not running herself in this election. She has warned voters against giving too much power to the president.

The Socialists are expected to win the second highest number of seats, up to about 150. Candidates of two centrist parties, a far right National Front, the Greens, and the Communists are also running, but are expected to win at most 10 seats each. The final vote results are expected on Monday.