French press round-up on Sarkozy's elections setback
French ruling party the UMP's defeat in the country's regional elections Sunday are a wake-up call for President Nicolas Sarkozy himself rather than his party, much of the French press decried Monday.
AFP - For Monday's edition of the French papers, the governing right-wing UMP's humiliation in nationwide regional elections was a wake-up call it could no longer afford to ignore.
The Socialist-led opposition outpaced the UMP by around 54 percent to 36 percent in the second and final round of the French regional elections, inflicting a stinging rebuke on Sarkozy and the UMP.
But for many writers it was President Nicolas Sarkozy and not the governnment led by Prime Minister Francois Fillon who was to blame for the right's poor electoral showing.
The Lyon-based newspaper Le Progres mocked Sarkozy as the "hyper president" who had become the "hyper loser"; Le Telegramme, another regional daily, attacked what it described as Sarkozy's autocratic style.
And regional daily La Montagne wrote that the results "send the same message all across France and obliges the head of state to read it as a national punishment and thus to come up with answers to the concerns of the electorate."
Even Le Figaro, the national right-wing daily, said Sarkozy would have to adapt to the new political landscape.
Although the result could in part be explained by the low turnout, it nevertheless marked a turning point in his presidency, said its front-page editorial.
The massive desertion of voters who backed Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election "obliges the president to set a new course for the final two years of his five-year term."
As the results came in early Monday, the left 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.
That would give the Socialist-led alliance 21 out of 22 of France's mainland regions, with only the right-wing stronghold of Alsace, in the east, escaping their control.
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.
For France Soir, the result was a boost for Socialist leader Martine Aubry, who now is the leading opposition contender for the 2012 presidency.
Other newspapers however, were more cautious.
Economic daily Les Echos warned against reading too much into what was, after all, a regional election, not a presidential vote.
And it said that while it had been a good night for the opposition Socialists, they still had to get to grips with building a positive programme that was not simply anti-Sarkozyism.
Left-wing daily Liberation, was also cautious.
Even if Sarkozyism had been rejected in a vote that gave new hope to the left, the result imposed a certain responsibility on the left, it said.
For nobody would understand, after such a breakthrough, if the usual in-fighting destroyed its future chances.