Srakozy's party looses 1st round elections
Sunday, 09 March 2008
French voters dealt President Nicolas Sarkozy a setback in the first round of local elections, preferring candidates from the opposition Socialist Party and its allies.

Candidates backed by Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement party received 40 percent of the vote, against 47.5 percent for those representing the Socialists, the Green and Communist parties, according to estimates by CSA, a Paris-based polling institute.

For Sarkozy, 53, who took office in May with a majority of 53 percent, a defeat may stiffen protests against his plans to curb spending, loosen work rules and toughen pension eligibility. UMP leaders sought to downplay the results, while Socialists urged voters to maintain their ``protest'' in next week's second round.

``It's a strong signal,'' said Frederic Dabi, director of the public-opinion department of Paris-based Ifop. ``It's not the third round of the presidential election, but there is a very strong push from the left.''

Turnout was 66 percent, CSA said. The vote for 36,683 mayors and half of the nation's district councils will be followed by a final round on March 16, featuring candidates who got more than 10 percent yesterday. Candidates won outright with more than 50 percent.

Among the nation's biggest cities, Lyon remained in Socialist hands, while Paris' Bertrand Delanoe is headed for re- election. The UMP incumbent in Strasbourg trailed after the first round and mayors from Sarkozy's party in Toulouse and Marseille may struggle to win after running virtually even yesterday, estimates showed.

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