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Hollande vows to pursue reform despite election losses

Alain Jocard, AFP | French President François Hollande during a press conference in Germany on March 31, 2015

French President François Hollande on Tuesday vowed to press ahead with his reform drive despite the setbacks his ruling Socialist party suffered in last week’s local elections.

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The Socialists and their left-wing allies lost 26 of the 61 French departments (counties) they had previously won to former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and its centrist partners.

The UMP’s celebration was crowned by a handful of symbolic victories – including in the central Corrèze department, which had been under Socialist control since 2008.

The Socialists have seen their support slide as Hollande and his government have failed to live up to promises to cut unemployment while tax hikes early in his term hit voters hard.

Hollande hopes to turn the eurozone’s second-biggest economy around with reforms cutting corporate payroll charges and a bill currently in parliament that would open many professions up to more competition.

“The course has been set and we will stick to it,” Hollande told journalists in Berlin after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He added that his priorities would be to offer "support for investment and social justice by promoting work".

Hollande’s reformist Prime Minister Manuel Valls has attributed the Socialists’ poor showing in the weekend elections to divisions within the left, rather than to voter frustration with government policy.

He also recognised the steady gains being made by the far-right National Front.

'Stubbornness is a fault'

However, senior Green politician Cécile Duflot, who was housing minister in the previous Socialist-led government, accused Valls of not learning from earlier losses in municipal elections last year.

“The course set by the government and the way it exercises authority are two factors for this [latest] failure,” she said in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

“Determination is a good quality, but stubbornness is a fault,” she added.

Despite historically high scores at the local level, the far-right National Front failed to win majority control of any departmental councils.

National Front candidates finished first in 31 cantons, the geographical units that make up French departments, but did not have enough councillors to take control of any departments.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

 

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