Left poised for victory that would clear François Hollande to pursue growth

 

Paris

The moderate left was on course for a comfortable victory in French parliamentary elections last night, strengthening President François Hollande's grip on power.

First-round results suggested that Mr Hollande would win a substantial centre-left majority next weekend – and that his Socialist Party might seize control of the national assembly on its own. At the very least, he and his Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, seemed assured of a majority of centre-left and Green deputies without needing the uncertain support of the Communists and hard left.

Projections based on the first-round results suggested that the Socialists might emerge with between 285 and 320 of the 577 seats in the national assembly. The Greens were predicted to win between 14 and 20 seats. At least 289 seats are needed for a majority.

The outgoing ruling party, the centre-right, Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) and its allies were predicted to fall to between 230 and 260 seats. The far-right leader Marine Le Pen easily topped the poll with 42 per cent of the vote in the ex-mining town of Hénin-Beaumont in the Pas de Calais.

Her party did less well than expected nationally, with 13 per cent of the nationwide vote, but still hope to win up to three seats in the second round next Sunday.

The anti-austerity, Eurosceptic, hard-left populist, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who chose to challenge Ms Le Pen head-on in the Pas de Calais, came a cropper. He finished third behind a local Socialist, Philippe Kemel, and withdrew from the race last night to allow left-wing voters to combine against Ms Le Pen next weekend. Mr Ayrault said the first-round result was a victory for Mr Hollande's programme of "reform with fairness".

President Hollande had appealed to the French people to give him a "clear and coherent" parliamentary majority – by which he meant a majority of the "wider centre-left" embracing Socialists, radicals and Greens. He wanted desperately to avoid having to rely on parliamentary support from Communists and other hard-left deputies, running under the "Front de Gauche" (Left Front) banner of Mr Mélenchon.

Mr Hollande has promised policies to promote growth but he has also pledged to rule with fiscal discipline, including ill-defined cuts in the French state apparatus to reduce the budget deficit to zero by 2017. Mr Mélenchon and his supporters oppose almost all cuts in state spending and any cuts in the French welfare state.

The turnout yesterday, around 57 per cent, was a new low – a disappointment after the 80 per cent achieved in the presidential elections in April and May. The lack of enthusiasm for the third voting day in seven weeks was perhaps understandable.

And yet much was at stake. Although the French President is constitutionally the country's dominant political figure, his direct powers are limited. It is the majority in the lower house of parliament which decides whether he can rule with his friends and allies or whether he must appoint an opponent as Prime Minister. Although there have been three cases of "cohabitation" between the left and right in the last 26 years, the French have never denied a friendly majority to a new President.

The rules of the parliamentary elections are complex and sometimes perverse. Unlike the presidential elections, more than two candidates can reach the second round. Any candidate who tops 12.5 per cent of the registered vote in a constituency (not the actual votes cast) can go through to the run-off.

Most of the 577 constituencies will be one-on-one, right-left confrontations next week where the result is predictable. The high local scores for the National Front means that there will be some three-way battles – 30 to 40 – but fewer than expected. The low turnout meant that it was difficult for NF candidates to reach the true "qualifying" target of around 21 per cent of the "actual" vote.

The second round is decided on the first-past-the-post system like a British election. The left-wing parties have an understanding that, if two leftists qualify, only the best-placed candidate stays in the race.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before