May 25, 2013
French left seen winning parliament control
French President Francois Hollande was on track for a Socialist-led majority in parliament after a solid win in a first-round vote that should free him from having to rely on hard leftists hostile to European integration.
Hollande's Socialist bloc looks likely to win the 289 seats needed for an outright majority in the 577-seat National Assembly in next Sunday's run-off, and almost certain to do so with its Greens Party allies, polling institutes said.
While conservatives said this was no "pink wave", winning power in the lower house for the first time in a decade would be a triumph for the left a year after it won control of the Senate and weeks after recapturing the presidency after 17 years.
Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned against over-confidence, telling voters: "This is just the first round. Everything hinges on next Sunday. Change is beginning."
Hollande, who won the presidency five weeks ago due to a rejection of conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and his failure to curb 10 percent unemployment, asked for a coherent majority as he steers France through the resurgent euro zone debt crisis.
The government of Europe's second-biggest economy is preparing budget adjustments, including possible spending cuts to take account of sickly growth, as well as taxes on the wealthy in a broad reform in the weeks ahead.
In the longer term he is under pressure from Berlin to give European Union institutions more control over national budgets and move towards a fiscal union - measures that Communists and other radical leftists would oppose in parliament.
Conservative lawmakers will probably vote against tax increases, though they could back legislation to ratify a European budget discipline pact that the far left opposes.
Hollande can count on the strongly pro-European Greens to back most of his legislation.