France's new President Francois Hollande is hoping to win a sizeable majority in the country's 577-member Parliament as nearly 46 million French voters go to the polls in the first round of the legislative poll. The final second round run-off between the two top-scoring candidates in each constituency will be held a week later on June 17.
A solid Left wing victory will allow Mr. Hollande to make good on campaign promises and legislate without taking recourse to presidential decree. The right wing factions and the centrists are of course hoping for a return of the system known as “co-habitation” whereby a left wing President would have to govern with a right wing government and Prime Minister.
Under the present V Republic, established in 1958, France has twice experienced co-habitation, once under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand when the socialists lost the parliamentary polls in 1986 and again under Conservative Jacques Chirac, who was forced to appoint Socialist Lionel Jospin as Prime Minister after the right lost mid-term elections in 1993.
Most opinion polls give the Left parties a majority and the question uppermost in the minds of political observers is about the margin of victory. The Socialists may well emerge as the single largest party, but they are unlikely to win an outright majority and will thus need the support of the Greens, and the communist-backed extreme left.
The French constitution spells out the powers of the President and defines foreign policy and defence as his exclusive preserve. But it also specifically says that the government decides on day to day policy and decision making.
Mr. Hollande needs 289 seats for a majority in the 577-member National Assembly. He has repeatedly asked voters to give him a “large, solid and coherent majority.”
Markets have been holding back and are giving Mr. Hollande a chance to prove himself. France was able to borrow at surprisingly low rates earlier this month with the yield on France's benchmark 10-year bond sliding to a record 2.07 per cent on June 1. The government took advantage of the decline by selling 7.84 billion Euros in debt on June 7, including 50-year bonds for the first time since 2010.
The former President, Nicolas Sarkozy's right wing UMP party is in tatters with an ongoing battle for leadership between current party chief Jean-Francois Coppe and former Prime Minister Francois Fillon. Not a mew has been heard from Mr. Sarkozy since his defeat. The former President returned to France from Morocco where he was “resting” for a few days last week to set up his new office (paid for by the French state as for every surviving former president) but mum was the word.
The UMP is tipped to win between 220 and 274 seats, not enough for a majority, polls showed. Marine Le Pen's National Front may capture as many as five seats.