Tags: Sarkozy | Looks | for | Boost | French | Polls

Sarkozy Looks for Boost as French Go to Polls

Sunday, 10 June 2007 12:00 AM

PARIS -- Conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy was expected to bolster his parliamentary support on Sunday as voters cast their ballots in a legislative election that is crucial for his wide-ranging reform plans.

Sarkozy was elected last month on a platform of various labor, education and law-and-order reforms and he hopes to retain comfortable control of parliament after the second round of voting on June 17 to push the changes through.

Opinion polls show Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party is likely to make gains.

"It's a referendum on Sarkozy's reform plans," Caroline Gaxie, 35, said after voting in the central city of Nevers.

The latest survey by pollsters BVA said the UMP is likely to win at least 366-419 deputies, a larger majority than the 359 seats it currently holds in the 577-seat National Assembly, against 120-173 for the Socialists, who have 149 seats.

Smaller groups like the Communists or Greens are expected to win just a handful of seats while the far-right National Front party is not expected to pick up any seats at all.

Turnout figures showed some 22.56 percent of French had voted by midday (1000 GMT), up from the 19.7 percent who had voted by the same time in a previous legislative poll in 2002, but down from the 31.21 percent who had voted by midday in the first round of the presidential election on April 22.

"Many people seem less interested in the parliamentary elections because they think Sarkozy will win a large majority anyway," said Mikhael Perez, 48, a voter in Paris.

About 1 million citizens in France's overseas territories and French residents in the Americas voted on Saturday. Voting began in mainland France at 8.00 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Sunday and first results are expected shortly after polls close at 8 p.m.

POPULAR PRESIDENT

In his first weeks in office, Sarkozy built an image as an energetic president, meeting foreign leaders, announcing reform plans and promising to push through some new measures in a special summer session of parliament.

His popularity has surged since he beat Socialist Segolene Royal in the May 6 presidential election.

It will be the third time French voters cast their ballots in less than 2 months. The Socialists have urged their supporters not to give way to election fatigue and disappointment and turn out in large numbers on Sunday.

The leftist party has not been helped by a round of infighting and finger-pointing after Royal's defeat last month which has distracted them from the legislative campaign.

Royal has indicated she would like to take over as head of the party, but she is controversial within her own party. And Socialist leader Francois Hollande, her partner and father of their four children, might hold on to the job until 2008.

Eleven of Sarkozy's 15-member government are also up for election. They are all expected to win their positions but Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who is running himself, has told them they will have to leave the government if they lose.

Candidates can win a seat in the first round if they get over half of the votes cast by at least a quarter of registered voters. If no candidate meets this, a second round will be held.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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PARIS -- Conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy was expected to bolster his parliamentary support on Sunday as voters cast their ballots in a legislative election that is crucial for his wide-ranging reform plans. Sarkozy was elected last month on a platform of...
Sarkozy,Looks,for,Boost,French,Polls
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2007-00-10
Sunday, 10 June 2007 12:00 AM
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