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Sarkozy to rejig Government after poll defeat

FRANCE: France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy was left scrambling for a way to relaunch his once relentless reform drive on Monday, after a humiliating defeat in nationwide regional elections.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon was to meet the French leader at 9:00 am (0800 GMT) following Sunday’s debacle, which left Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP in charge of only one of France’s mainland regions.

French politics
* Sarkozy left scrambling for a way to relaunch his reform drive

* Poll left Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP in charge of only one region

There have been reports that Fillon will offer to resign, but at the very least observers expect a cabinet reshuffle that will signal a new start in Sarkozy’s campaign to persuade France to swallow difficult reforms.

“Tonight’s result confirms the success of the left’s lists. We have not been convincing,” Fillon admitted Sunday after the Socialist-led opposition beat the UMP by around 54 percent to 36.

“This is a disappointment for the governing party. I take my share of responsibility, and tomorrow morning I’ll take this up with the president.”

If confirmed, the estimates — based on samples of cast ballots by polling agencies — leave Sarkozy’s supporters in control of only one of France’s 22 mainland regions, their right-wing stronghold of Alsace.

The left, dominated by the Socialist Party, appeared to have held onto the mainland and the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and to have won a tight race to wrest Corsica from the UMP.

The UMP consoled itself with having taken back French Guyana and the Indian Ocean island of Reunion in the vote to elect the regional councils that are in charge of transport, education and cultural policy.

“The French have expressed their rejection of the politics of the president and the government,” Socialist party leader Martine Aubry said, calling on the left to unite behind a programme to retake power at a national level.

Turnout, although low, was around four percent higher than in last week’s first round. Polling agencies TNS-Sofres and OpinionWay separately predicted that the second round abstention rate would be 49 percent.

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