France votes in tough test for Sarkozy
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Last Updated: Sunday, March 14, 2010, 23:24
Paris: France voted on Sunday in regional polls forecast to punish Nicolas Sarkozy's governing party in the last ballot-box test of his popularity ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

Voters still reeling from the global economic slowdown were expected to give the president's right-wing UMP party a beating in the two-round vote today and March 21, though turnout was headed for a record low.

It is the first election held in France since a year-long recession sent unemployment soaring to its highest level in a decade, with nearly three million people now out of a job.

"I don't think the national government is really tackling social welfare -- in terms of jobs for example," said Patricia Abela, a 41-year-old insurance worker, after voting for the opposition Socialists in southwest Paris.

Christine Eluard, a 47-year-old child minder, said she cast her ballot for the local candidates of Sarkozy's party but judged that on the whole the elections were seen "rather more as a vote of censure" for France's leaders.

Sarkozy is struggling with the lowest approval ratings since his 2007 election and commentators agree he no longer looks unbeatable in 2012.

"The balance of power is extremely favourable for the left," said Frederic Dabi, a director at the IFOP polling agency, predicting a heavy defeat for the UMP.


First Published: Sunday, March 14, 2010, 23:24

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