Leftist candidates led the first round of France's parliamentary elections today, according to polling agencies and partial official results, in a vote that is crucial to President Francois Hollande's Socialist agenda. Hollande needs leftists to take control of the lower house of parliament—currently dominated by conservatives—to carry out his plans to redirect France's economy, with repercussions around debt-laden Europe. Conservatives said the Socialists' spending plans could cripple France just as it and other European countries are being asked to rescue Spain.
Based on today's first round, polling agencies predict that Socialists and other leftists will take a majority of the 577 seats in the National Assembly in the decisive second round June 17. Four polling agencies' projections and early official results show diminished support for former President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party across the country. They show growing support for the left, amid anger at cost-cutting austerity measures and reforms under Sarkozy seen by some as too friendly to the rich.