Sarkozy heading for hammering in key polls
French President Nicolas Sarkozy may have spent the week in his favoured role as global statesman but his time in the limelight increasingly looks as if it could end on a sour note.
All the indications last night suggested that Mr Sarkozy's ruling conservative party would take a drubbing in local elections held yesterday.
French leftists and the resurgent extreme right under the leadership of Marine Le Pen are widely expected to consolidate their gains in the second round of voting in France's cantons.
The elections serve as the last test of parties' nationwide strength before next year's presidential elections.
The opposition Socialists gained the most votes overall in first-round balloting a week ago with about 25pc of votes, according to preliminary results last night from the Interior Ministry.
Mr Sarkozy's conservative UMP party plus allies on the right had about 32pc overall, interior minister Claude Gueant said. However, the UMP alone had less than 20pc of the vote.
Turnout was exceptionally low, however, at about 45pc.
Voters in this election care little about Mr Sarkozy's renewed global stature, political analysts say, and France's leading position in pressing for an international force to assure a no-fly zone over Libya and protect the population will have no bearing on the poll.
"(Yesterday's) election will be a double test for Nicolas Sarkozy," said political analyst Stephane Rozes of corporate consulting firm Cap. "First he will see if he has limited the UMP's decline. And second, he will see if the strategy established in the Grenoble speech works or not."
In a speech last July in the southeastern city of Grenoble, Mr Sarkozy carved out his political territory by saying he wanted to revoke French citizenship of any immigrant who endangered the life of police officers.
Recent opinion surveys have put Mr Sarkozy's approval ratings at historic lows.