(The Blaze/AP) – French President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party won a solid majority in parliamentary elections Sunday, fortifying his push for governments to spend money – not cut budgets – to tackle Europe’s economic crisis.
“This new, solid and large majority will allow us now to pass laws for change, and gives us great responsibilities in France and in Europe,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on France-2 television as the results started coming in.
Elections in France and Greece on Sunday will weigh on Europe’s future and whether its debt troubles will hobble markets and economies across the globe. France is the second-biggest economy in the eurozone and, along with powerhouse Germany, contributes heavily to bailouts for weaker nations and often drives EU-wide policy.
It’s a stunning turnaround for the Socialists, a party that spent much of the last decade mired in division and confused about its direction. Hollande’s victory over Sarkozy on May 6 led the way for the leftists’ legislative sweep.
Socialists now have an almost unprecedented lock on politics in France, and plan to use it to raise taxes on big banks and oil companies, levy a 75-percent tax on incomes higher than (EURO)1 million ($1.26 million) a year, and hire 60,000 teachers.
Hollande’s strong domestic mandate will also let him push back in global economic talks against the budget cuts being demanded by Germany, which Greece and other indebted countries say are driving them deeper into the financial abyss by suffocating growth.
Under Sarkozy, France joined Germany in favoring government austerity measures instead of stimulus programs as the antidote to the continent’s debt troubles – especially in countries such as Greece that turned to the European Union and others for billions in bailout dollars.
Hollande presented other European leaders last week with a new “growth pact” that includes (EURO)120 billion ($151 billion) worth of spending measures around the continent to stimulate growth, French newspaper Journal du Dimanche reported Sunday. The paper said it obtained a copy of an 11-page letter on the issue sent to Merkel and others.
Party leader Marine Le Pen lost her own parliamentary race – by just 118 votes – but her niece and a prominent lawyer won seats for the party, which Le Pen called “an enormous success” after years outside parliament despite significant popular support.
Voter turnout was weak for France, at about 56 percent, as voters were asked to cast ballots for the fourth time in the past two months.
In a well-off area of central Paris, voter Eve Baume said she cast her ballot for the local Socialist, Claire Morel, “because I’ve been waiting for change for a long time. … Also I wanted to support Francois Hollande, the government and its projects.”
Pascal Albe, a voter from the working class Paris suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine, said that though he generally votes for the right, Hollande should have a Socialist-led parliament. “Otherwise the country will be paralyzed, and especially now, we don’t need that,” he said.
This is a breaking story. Updates will be added.