President Nicolas Sarkozy suffered a humiliating defeat in the first round of French regional elections yesterday.
The opposition Socialists comfortably topped the poll, with around 30 per cent of the vote nationwide, pushing Mr Sarkozy's centre-right UMP, with around 27 per cent, into second place. The turnout was low, but if voting patterns are repeated in the second round next Sunday the centre-left and their Green and hard-left allies could win an unprecedented grand slam of all 22 regional councils in metropolitan France and the four councils overseas.
The results were by far the worst of Mr Sarkozy's almost three years in office. Commentators said they reflected not just the global recession but also Mr Sarkozy's erratic record.