By Pejman Yousefzadeh Posted in Featured Stories | Foreign Affairs — Comments (3) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
It would appear that Nicolas Sarkozy is being denied his expected landslide win:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's allies won a large majority in parliamentary elections on Sunday but fell short of the predicted landslide after talk of a sales tax hike appeared to cost them votes.
When voting ended, leading polling institutes projected Sarkozy's centre-right allies would win 341-350 seats in the National Assembly, well below some pre-vote estimates that they could win up to 470 deputies.
The pollsters also projected that the Socialists would win between 202-210 seats in the 577-seat legislature.
The surprise results were a relative setback for the president, who had urged voters to give him a decisive victory to underpin his program of sweeping tax and labor reforms.
Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and allies had 359 seats in the outgoing legislature.
The Socialists and affiliates, who had 149 deputies in the outgoing parliament, appeared to have been buoyed by a row over government plans to hike a value-added tax.
"The blue wave that had been announced...has not taken place," said Socialist leader Francois Hollande, who has been under fire since Sarkozy's presidential victory in May.
"In the new assembly, there will be diversity and pluralism. That's good for the country," Hollande said.
More below the fold . . .
Just to make matters clear, it was the talk of a tax hike that deprived Sarkozy of a greater majority:
Prime Minister Francois Fillon has already detailed a raft of measures to be laid before a special session of the new parliament due to start on June 26.
They include tax breaks on mortgage interest repayments and overtime, imposing a 50 percent ceiling on personal taxation, a tightening of immigration laws and tougher sentences for repeat offenders.
But it was the government's bungled proposal to consider raising VAT by up to 5 percentage points as a means of lowering employers' social security contributions that seemed to have cost the conservatives a bigger majority.
The left seized the issue, which they denounced as an unfair tax that would stifle consumer demand and drag down the economy. Sarkozy was forced to intervene to play down talk of a hike.
There has been a lot of talk about how Republicans can learn lessons from Sarkozy's Presidential victory this year. Just as Republican Presidential candidates are running to succeed an unpopular Republican President, Sarkozy ran to succeed an unpopular fellow Gaullist in Jacques Chirac. (The two were of different parties, but of the same political ideology.) And just as Sarkozy contrasted himself heavily with Chirac, a future Republican Presidential candidate can contrast himself heavily with George W. Bush in order to win the Presidency. So goes the thinking.
This makes sense. But if that Republican Presidential candidate wants to be really successful, he will learn a lesson from Sarkozy and promise not to engage in a major tax increase as well.