PARIS – French President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party won a solid majority in parliamentary elections Sunday, polling agencies projected, fortifying Hollande in his push for governments to spend money – not cut budgets – to tackle Europe’s economic crisis.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives, who dominated the outgoing National Assembly, suffered a stinging loss, according to all estimations. Meanwhile, the far-right National Front party was on track to win a small but symbolically important presence in parliament for the first time in years.
“This new, solid and large majority will allow us now to pass laws for change, and gives us great responsibilities in France and in Europe,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on France-2 television as the results started coming in.
France’s Socialists will have between 308 and 320 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly after Sunday’s second-round parliamentary elections, the TNS-Sofres Sopra Group, Ipsos and CSA agencies estimated.
That’s well over the 289 the Socialists needed for a majority, and it means they won’t have to rely on far-leftists who oppose some of Hollande’s pro-European policies to pass legislation.
Hollande has said his first priorities for the new parliament include postponing a balanced budget until 2017, raising income taxes to 75 percent for those who earn more than 1 million euros ($1.26 million) a year, and hiring 60,000 new teachers. The Sarkozy government had imposed cuts on the education sector.
Party leader Marine Le Pen lost her own parliamentary race – by just 118 votes – but her niece and a prominent lawyer won seats for the party, which Le Pen called “an enormous success” after years outside parliament despite significant popular support.
In an embarrassment for the Socialists, former presidential candidate Segolene Royal lost her controversial campaign.