Socialist win enables Hollande to press ahead with reforms
PARIS – A resounding Socialist victory in weekend parliamentary elections will allow French president François Hollande to press ahead with reforms to tame France’s deficit and promote economic growth in Europe, according to a senior French minister.
Final results from Sunday’s ballot showed the Socialists and their affiliates had won 314 seats, comfortably exceeding the 289 needed for a majority in the national assembly and freeing them from reliance on the Eurosceptic far left.
With the upper house already controlled by the centre-left, the Socialists are now turning their attention to a special parliamentary session next month to push through budget legislation, including tax rises for large firms, particularly banks and energy companies.
The measures are part of Mr Hollande’s dual drive to balance France’s budget by 2017 while persuading Germany to back his call for a growth stimulus package of some €120 billion for Europe.
Inheriting a stagnant economy and unemployment running at a 13-year high of 10 per cent, Mr Hollande faces a delicate balancing act to prevent contagion from the deepening crisis in Spain and Italy spreading to the euro zone’s second-largest economy.
French interior minister Manuel Valls said the government would stick to its pledge to cut the deficit while honouring promises to raise spending on education and security.
France has one of the highest levels of state spending in Europe and posted a budget deficit of 5.2 per cent of GDP last year.
“We need to sort out this country: every Frenchman will need to make an effort but fairly, via a tax reform. It will be difficult but that is the task facing us,” Mr Valls told RTL radio.
Mr Valls said that a resurgence by the extreme right – which returned to parliament for the first time since the mid-1980s with three seats – was due to widespread disenchantment with the economic situation, which could be seen across Europe.
“We need to mobilise our European partners because piling austerity on top of austerity will lead to tragedy and a deep rift between Europeans and their politicians,” he said.
Mr Hollande was expected to press the case for growth measures at a summit of G20 leaders in Mexico yesterday.
He travels to Rome on Friday to meet Italian prime minister Mario Monti, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy to discuss closer political union and unified bank regulation in Europe.
Amid rising tensions between Paris and Berlin, Dr Merkel has rebuffed Mr Hollande’s calls for joint euro zone bonds to resolve the crisis.
Dr Merkel bluntly warned on Friday that France needed to urgently look to its own competitiveness. – (Reuters)