In France, Hollande’s Socialist Party secures parliamentary majority in elections


Supporters of France's National Front Party react after the second round of the French legislative elections in Henin-Beaumont, in northern France, where far-right leader Marine Le Pen lost her race for a parliamentary seat, but her anti-immigrant National Front party will have its first seats in parliament in years. (Michel Spingler/AP)
June 17, 2012

President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party coasted to a comfortable parliamentary majority in France’s legislative elections Sunday, appearing to guarantee passage of his proposals designed to reinvigorate the economy and help the poor more easily weather Europe’s stubborn debt crisis.

The Socialist victory, complementing Hollande’s election as president in May, avoided the deadlock that would have occurred had a blocking majority gone to the conservative Union for a Popular Movement, the coalition of former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Reinforcing Hollande’s authority at home, the majority strengthens his hand in tense negotiations with Germany over ways to relieve pressure against the euro, the common currency of 17 European nations.

“This evening there is a new parliamentary majority in France that conforms to the presidential majority,” declared Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, a veteran Socialist leader.

Socialists already control the Senate. In campaigning for the lower house, Hollande’s followers used the threat of a legislative standoff with the conservatives to motivate voters despite a lack­luster campaign that touched only marginally on the pressing economic issues facing France and the European Union.

While deficits and debt were little dealt with, public attention focused heavily on a made-in-France contest between rival Socialists in La Rochelle that unfurled more like a soap opera than a political campaign.


People are seen in polling booths before voting during the second round of the French parliamentary elections on June 17, 2012 at a polling station in Henin-Beaumont, northern France. (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The winning candidate was Olivier Forlani, a local Socialist dissident who had refused to step aside for the candidate named by the Socialist leadership in Paris. That candidate, who suffered from accusations she was “parachuted” into the Atlantic coast city, was Segolene Royal, who lived with Hollande for years and had four children with him before an unsuccessful run for president in 2007.

With opinion polls showing Royal in trouble despite her national stature, Hollande last week issued a message of support, violating a campaign pledge to remain above party politics. When she learned of the gesture, Valerie Trierweiler, a journalist who lives with Hollande and serves as the unmarried first lady, tweeted a message supporting Forlani.

Trierweiler’s message was widely interpreted as spiteful and inappropriate, including by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. and Royal said she was “wounded” and “bruised” when she heard of it.It was also taken as a display of friction in Hollande’s personal life.despite his pledge to introduce sobriety and reserve into the presidency.

Royal in an unsmiling appearance before supporters,pledged to continue politics despite her defeat, which she blamed on Forlani’s “political betrayal.” She went on to quote Victor Hugo, saying treachery never pays and often turns back on the traitor. Trierweiler was not mentioned, but some listeners were likely to read a double meaning into her remarks.

In another prominent match, Marine Le Pen of the National Front apparently lost a close election in the northern city of Henin-Beaumont. Her Socialist opponent, Philippe Kemel, claimed victory by a few votes, but Le Pen demanded a recount.

Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a 20-year-old law student, won a seat for the National Front from the southern city of Carpentras, returning the National Front to the National Assembly after a 25-year absence despite her aunt’s setback.

Exit polls for the major French television stations gave the Socialists between 291 and 320 seats in the 577-member National Assembly. That meant the party had a majority even without its allies, simplifying the task for Ayrault’s government.

The Socialist Party general secretary, Marine Aubry, expressed satisfaction at the wide majority accorded to the party and added: “We now have the duty to succeed.”

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