French voters have inflicted a major defeat on the ruling Socialist Party and its allies in Sunday's local elections. The Left lost control of 25 of the départements or counties that it held before the election, leaving it in the majority in just 34. In contrast, the alliance between the right-wing UMP - headed by Nicolas Sarkozy - and the centrists UDI is now in control of 66 département councils in a dramatic shift of power in French local politics. The far-right Front National, meanwhile, failed in its bid to win control in a council for the first time in its history though it did see around 60 councillors elected. The outcome is widely seen as a major slap in the face delivered by voters to President François Hollande's government. The Right won power both in the president's political stronghold and that of the prime minister Manuel Valls. Conceding the serious setback for the socialists, Valls also highlighted the performance of Marine Le Pen's party as a “defeat for all Republicans”. But he has vowed to stay on as head of government and - to the dismay of some on the Left - made clear that its current policies would continue.
The first round of voting in France's 'départementales' or county elections on Sunday threw up some important results. While it did not do as well as opinion polls had predicted, failing to become France's 'leading party', the far-right National Front still picked up around 25% of the vote. Meanwhile the ruling Socialist Party only attracted just over 21% support in an election in which it has traditionally performed well. A third noteworthy outcome was the victory of the alliance between the centre-right UDI and the right-wing UMP, led by Nicolas Sarkozy. Here Mediapart journalists examine the political situation ahead of next Sunday's second and decisive round. First Stéphane Alliès argues that leaders of the Socialist Party, and in particular the prime minister Manuel Valls, are deluding themselves in thinking that the party “held up” well in the vote. Then Ellen Salvi analyses the performance of the centre-right, where the victory of the UDI-UMP alliance has rather overshadowed any success on the part of former president Sarkozy.
A cliffhanger by-election held in eastern France at the weekend saw the narrow victory of the socialist candidate over his far-right National Front party challenger. There was relief but no partying within the Socialist Party, which held the seat by a majority of just more than 800 votes and which on Monday sounded an alarm at the dangers ahead after this latest illustration of the upsurge in support for the far-right. Despite its defeat in the urns, the Front National credibly claimed a political victory over the mainstream parties and over the conservative UMP party in particular. Mediapart political affairs correspondent Hubert Huertas analyses the result which showed a significant section of the conservative electorate snubbed its party’s instructions by switching support to the far-right in the second-round playoff on Sunday, prompting Front National leader Marine Le Pen to say the mutiny offered "lots of promising information for the future".
Rather than urging electorate to vote against Front National candidate, Sarkozy says voters can 'decide for themselves', to dismay of some members.
Jean-François Copé, former head of the UMP, is under formal investigation for misuse of funds after party paid Sarkozy's election fine.
The Financial Times considers that Sarkozy's presidency bid to follow election as leader of the UMP party is bad for his party and for France.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been elected as leader of the conservative opposition party, the UMP. Sarkozy’s bid for the party leadership is the first step in his ultimate aim of standing for the French presidency in elections due in 2017. But the former president has got off to a lukewarm start, with a weaker-than-expected victory in the party leadership race. More importantly, as Ellen Salvi writes in this analysis article, he now has an uphill road ahead, implicated in a number of judicial investigations and with political rivals waiting at the bends.
Some party members may have been prevented from voting in the leadership election fought by three candidates, including Nicolas Sarkozy.
The fallout from a private lunch between President François Hollande’s chief of staff Jean-Pierre Jouyet and former President Nicolas Sarkozy's prime minister François Fillon last summer is threatening to develop into a full-blown scandal. At the meeting on June 24th Fillon is said to have asked the socialist administration to speed up legal investigations into his former boss and now political rival Sarkozy. Jouyet, who served in Fillon's right-wing government but who is a close personal friend of Hollande, later told two journalists of the conversation. When the reporters published the story in a book last week Jouyet at first denied the claim then backtracked and insisted that Fillon had indeed asked him to intervene in the affair. Fillon, however, who like Sarkozy wants to be the Right's 2017 presidential candidate, has angrily accused Jouyet of “lies” and says he is suing for defamation. Once more, say Stéphane Alliès, Ellen Salvi and Mathieu Magnaudeix, the Elysée finds itself at the centre of an embarrassing affair, this time with the president’s right-hand man in the firing line.
François Fillon denies renewed claims he tried to get Hollande's chief of staff to speed up a legal case against his rival Nicolas Sarkozy.
François Fillon says he is victim of 'plot' and will sue over claims he urged Hollande's office to speed up legal probe into his former boss.
Former French president says if he becomes head of the UMP he will start from scratch and seek to unite people with similar ideas.
Despite a criminal conviction and failures as a prime minister, polls show Bordeaux mayor is country's most respected politician in office.
Investigation into 'breach of trust' over claims his UMP party wrongly paid ex-president's fine for exceeding election spending in 2012.
In recent days six people have been placed under formal investigation in connection with the presidential election financial scandal that is rocking the main right-wing opposition party, the UMP. Judges are investigating a system of fake invoicing by communications firm Bygmalion in 2012 in which they unlawfully billed the UMP rather than Nicolas Sarkozy's election team for work they did organising campaign rallies. This was apparently done to avoid the Sarkozy campaign breaching strict rules on how much presidential candidates can spend. This growing scandal is now potentially a major threat to Sarkozy's political comeback, though the former president himself claims he knew nothing of the affair or even the name Bygmalion at the time. Here Mathilde Mathieu, Ellen Salvi and Marine Turchi give a guide to the main players in the so-called Bygmalion affair and the issues at stake.