Sarkozy's trouncing in local election seen as "warning"
Mar 28, 2011, 8:50 GMT
Paris - A 'warning' is how French media described the results of Sunday's local elections, in which President Nicolas Sarkozy's party haemorrhaged votes to the opposition Socialists and the far-right National Front.
Martine Aubry's Socialists won 35.7 per cent of the vote in Sunday's run-off election, against 20.3 per cent for Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) and 11.6 per cent for Marine le Pen's National Front in the last election before next year's presidential poll.
The election, which was characterized by a low turnout of around 45 per cent of 21 million registered voters, confirms the ascent of the National Front under the daughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.
The party took two seats in the 102 general councils that run France's 'departements' or districts.
The opposition accuses Sarkozy of having strengthened the National Front by campaigning on the same themes of combatting migration and the influence of Islam in French society.
Government spokesman Francois Baroin, who termed the results 'disappointing,' appeared to admit as much Monday, saying: 'I think we have to move away from everything that, seen from near or far, gives the impression of stigmatizing (parts of the population).'
At the same time, he ruled out Sarkozy being passed over by the party in favour of another presidential candidate, saying to change would be 'pure folly.'
Sarkozy has yet to declare his candidacy, but is expected to seek a second five-year term. All polls show the as-yet-unknown Socialist Party candidate beating him.
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