( AFP ) - President Nicolas Sarkozy's political opponents struggled on Tuesday to energize their campaign and prevent the French leader's rightwing party from winning a landslide victory in parliamentary elections.
Deeply divided, the main opposition Socialists suffered a blow when centrist leader Francois Bayrou rejected negotiations on forming an alliance ahead of the second round of voting on Sunday.
Segolene Royal, who lost to Sarkozy in last month's presidential election, had called Bayrou to try to tap into his voter base as the Socialists faced another potentially disastrous defeat in the elections.
"I will not give supporters any guidance on how to vote. I will not enter into these kinds of mechanics," Bayrou, whose Democratic Movement picked up 7.6 percent of the national vote on Sunday, told RTL radio.
Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and its allies on the right took a commanding lead in the first round of voting on Sunday and were on course to win up to 501 seats in the 577-member National Assembly.
Of the 110 members of parliament that were elected in the first round, only one represents the Socialist Party.
A big victory for Sarkozy in the parliamentary elections would give him free rein to push through his bold programme of reforms to stimulate growth and bring down unemployment in the eurozone's second largest economy.
Sarkozy has promised to usher in broad reforms to give universities more autonomy, tighten immigration, make labour laws more flexible and reduce taxation.
But the stronger-than-expected showing in the first round of voting prompted fresh complaints from the left of a dangerous concentration of powers in the hands of the new leader.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon, one of the government's seven members to be elected on Sunday, said the UMP would not use its huge majority to silence the opposition.
"The opposition fears a blue wave: well, it will find in parliament a responsible majority, determined to renew the institutions, to give a voice to the silent majority and respect the opposition that represents millions of French people," Fillon told supporters at a rally late Monday.
The UMP had 359 seats in the outgoing parliament while the Socialists 149.
Participation in Sunday's vote was a record low at 60.5 percent, with polls showing that more than half of young voters had stayed away, depriving the Socialists of support.
Royal, who remains the Socialist Party's most popular politician, angrily accused journalists on France 2 public television of bias following a report on embattled Socialist candidates in the parliamentary polls.
"Let me say that the report that you just aired is quite scandalous for all the candidates that you are announcing as having already lost, who are already defeated," said Royal, who is not running for a seat but has set her sights on the party leadership."This news programme shows once again that much remains to be done to ensure pluralism in the media and pluralism in politics," she said.
Results from the first round showed the Socialists and their allies ahead in 109 constituencies while the Communist Party, which had 21 seats, was leading in eight districts.
The Greens were on track to maintain their two seats in parliament while Bayrou's party could pick up two seats.
The far-right National Front was not expected to win any seats despite the fourth-place showing of leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the presidential election, with some 10 percent of votes.