French voters delivered a stinging defeat to president Nicolas Sarkozy, voting against candidates from his Union for a Popular Movement in elections for regional councils. The Socialist/Green opposition coalition won 55% of the vote compared to UMP's 37%. "This is a real defeat for us" said Jean-François Copé, the UMP parliamentary leader. "The French have sent a message. We have to get back to our basic values."
UMP leaders acknowledged that the rout shows France's unease over Sarkozy's economic reforms. "The French are worried. They fear the loss of a way of life that is European. Our welfare protection is threatened, they say," Prime Minister Francois Fillon told the Times of London. Sarkozy will likely have a tough time getting anything done in the remaining 2 years of his term, as the emboldened socialist opposition angles for advantage.
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