The French left’s sweeping victory in Senate elections at the weekend does not mean the presidency is in the bag for the opposition Socialists, but it weakens President Nicolas Sarkozy seven months before the 2012 election.
The swing left in Sunday’s vote by local councillors, handing the Socialist Party 177 seats out of 348 and its first upper house majority in half a century, is the result of an anti-Sarkozy backlash in successive local elections in past months.
Trailing the left in polls and under pressure from economic gloom and a corruption probe that has netted close aides, Sarkozy has enough political wile to recover in time for the 2012 election, yet the battle ahead looks tougher than ever, Reuters reports.
“This clearly weakens Sarkozy. He was working to try and win back public opinion and this has undermined any progress there. It will handicap him,” said analyst Francois Miquet-Marty at Viavoice pollsters. “It raises doubts over whether he should even be the UMP’s candidate next year.”
Although a left-wing Senate does not have the power to overrule legislation, it was a slap in the face for Sarkozy’s UMP party to lose its upper hand in what has been a bastion of the right since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958.
The Socialists, due to pick a presidential candidate in October from a field of six contenders, called Sunday’s result a step towards victory in 2012 after three terms in opposition. It was a triumph for a party still bruised from losing its erstwhile star Dominique Strauss-Kahn over a sex scandal.
“It’s like a first act, a dress rehearsal for victory in 2012,” Socialist Party head Harlem Desir told i