The Parti socialiste won France’s second round of regional elections conclusively this Sunday, gathering over half the votes nationwide while President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives trailed in second place with just a third of the electorate.
The socialists already controlled twenty out of France’s 22 departments in Europe, gaining the island of Corsica this weekend. The major parties equally split the four overseas regions.
Following their defeat in the 2007 election, the socialists were ruptured for years with internal power struggle. Former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal had to make way for the Parisian Martine Aubry last year in an extremely close election that saw Aubry lead with just over a hundred votes.
Aubry is the daughter of former European Commission chairman Jacques Delors and previously served as labor minister when she championed the 35 hour work week. She is expected to run against Sarkozy in the country’s upcoming presidential election of 2012.
Although the government previously insisted that the elections would bear no consequences nationally, rumors of a cabinet shakeup being in the works began circulating in Paris right after the outcome of the election became known. Prime Minister François Fillon accepted defeat and declared that his party has to listen to the voters.
In the wake of the financial meltdown, President Sarkozy has shown himself increasingly leftish on the economic front, blaming the “freewheeling” Anglo-Saxon mode of enterprise while leading the fight for greater European and global regulation of the financial industry.
At the same time, France has to make unpopular cutbacks. Sarkozy’s government is likely to cut on entitlement spending and it intends to raise the retirement age. Labor unions and farmers are already gearing up to protest against the measures, foreboding months of uproar in a country that simply can’t afford to maintain its massive and pervasive welfare state for much longer.