France votes in tough test for Sarkozy
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
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
"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.