( AFP ) - Campaigning drew to a close Saturday for the second round of France's parliamentary election, which is expected to deliver an overwhelming majority for President Nicolas Sarkozy and his ambitious programme of reform.
A month after Sarkozy's election victory over the Socialist Segolene Royal, the country is returning to the polls to choose a new National Assembly whose five-year mandate will run concurrently with the new president's.
On Sunday some 37 million voters will decide between 933 candidates in the 467 constituencies where deputies were not returned in the first round of voting on June 10.
Campaigning on the broadcast media ended at midnight Friday -- along with a ban on publishing new opinion polls -- but candidates could continue canvassing on the street Saturday.
Opinion polls all predict a clear victory for Sarkozy's Union For a Popular Movement (UMP) over a Socialist Party (PS) that is still reeling from Royal's presidential defeat.
According to the TNS Sofres polling agency, the UMP and its allies the New Centre can expect between 405 and 435 seats in the 577-member Assembly, with the PS getting between 125 and 149.
As the UMP already controls the lower house of parliament, it would be the first time since 1978 that a ruling party has been given a renewed majority -- a sign that Sarkozy's promise of radical change from the policies of past governments is widely accepted.
The biggest losers in the election are likely to be the small parties, as the new Assembly looks set to be dominated by the UMP-PS divide.
The Communist Party (PC), once France's largest, is set to lose several of its current 21 seats and will not have enough to form a parliamentary bloc. The Greens will have three at most, and the far-right National Front once again none, according to polls.
The third-placed presidential candidate Francois Bayrou also looks set to lose the gamble he took when he created a new centre party Modem last month and broke with Sarkozy's UMP. He may well be the only Modem deputy to win a seat.
With its leadership openly bickering over responsibility for the presidential defeat, the PS is resigned to a new period in opposition and has done little more than warn of the dangers of a too large UMP majority.
However in the last days of the campaign it had a new burst of energy, seizing on the government's decision to study an increase in sales tax as a way of paying for the social security system.
"Now we know who will bear the burden of Nicolas Sarkozy's promised tax cuts," party leader Francois Hollande -- who is also Royal's partner -- said, warning that sales tax will increase to 24.5 percent.
"June 17 is the last electoral rendez-vous for five years. After that there is only the politics of the right, with all its brutality, indifference and injustice," he said.
But Prime Minister Francois Fillon -- a close ally of Sarkozy -- urged voters to give the UMP as large a majority as possible in order to provide momentum for its reform programme.
And he accused the PS of failing to offer any alternative policies to the UMP's. "Of the party of the rose there is nothing left but the thorns," he said.
Sarkozy has promised to convene a special session of the National Assembly next month to push through a first raft of reforms.
These include a crime law clamping down on repeat offenders; a law to provide guaranteed service in transport strikes; greater autonomy for universities; and a far-reaching tax reform including the key measure ending tax and social charges on overtime.