Hollande heading for absolute majority in French parliament
French President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party was heading for an absolute majority in parliament with its Green Party allies after a first round of elections, exit polls showed last night.
The predicted victory would give Mr Hollande the freedom to push through tax-and-spend reforms as France struggles with Europe's debt crisis, cementing his status as the Continent's anti-austerity champion.
Five weeks after Nicolas Sarkozy was beaten in the presidential election, his centre-right UMP party looks likely to lose its absolute majority in the 577-seat National Assembly.
The result appeared to confound predictions of an electoral meltdown in favour of the far-right National Front, whose candidates were hardest hit by a record low turnout of around 60pc.
The Socialists and the Greens combined were heading for 40pc of the vote, according to Ipsos exit polls. The UMP and its centrist allies were credited with 35.4pc, while the National Front was on 13.4pc -- well below the almost 18pc its leader won in the first round of presidential elections.
According to the poll, the Socialists would win between 270 and 300 seats and their Green allies were set for eight to 14 seats. This suggested Mr Hollande would be able to count on getting the 289 seats needed for an outright majority following next Sunday's run-off vote.
The elections are a key test for 24 government ministers. Mr Hollande has said they will lose their posts if they lose their seats. Last night it appeared that all had held on.
Mr Hollande had called for a "solid and coherent" majority for the Socialists, which would allow him to rule unfettered as he seeks to lead an anti-austerity, pro-growth drive in Europe while bringing down France's public deficit to zero by 2017.
"I will only be able to bring about change, the change that the French have asked me to bring about, if I have a majority in the National Assembly," he said on Thursday.
The far-right was hoping to build on the strong presidential showing of its leader Marine Le Pen, by gaining its first presence in parliament since the 1980s.
Ms Le Pen won a bitter duel against Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Left Front, coming first in Henin-Beaumont, in the northern Pas de Calais department. But she is expected to lose in round two.
Ms Le Pen said: "We confirm our position tonight as the third political power of France."
Louis Aliot, the National Front's deputy leader, said it was a "victory" compared to the 4.6pc the party mustered in parliamentary elections five years ago. (©Daily Telegraph, London)