Sarkozy party tries to regroup after election setback
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party and its allies were looking to regroup Monday after suffering a severe defeat in Sunday's first round of regional elections, DPA reported.
Results based on figures provided by the Interior Ministry show the opposition Socialist Party receiving 29.48 per cent of the vote, well ahead of the UMP's 26.18 per cent.
Another left-wing party, Europe Ecologie, was credited with 12.47 per cent of the vote, while the anti-immigration National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen polled 11.74 per cent.
The Socialists already began horse-trading late Sunday with Europe Ecologie and the Left Front, which received nearly 6 per cent of the vote, to present unified slates of candidates in next Sunday's decisive second round.
With left-wing parties drawing more than 50 per cent of the vote Sunday, observers said there was a better than even chance of the Socialists and their allies scoring a "Grand Slam" on March 21 by winning every one of metropolitan France's 22 regions.
The UMP and its allies currently govern only two regions: Alsace and Corsica.
Meanwhile, Sarkozy's party colleagues spent late Sunday and early Monday emphasizing the record low turnout of 46.5 per cent.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the high abstention rate "does not permit us to draw any conclusions of national relevance" and noted that "nothing has been decided for the second round."