France's Hollande to press ahead with reforms despite poll losses

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 31, 2015 10:50 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande pledged on Tuesday to press ahead with his reform drive after his ruling Socialist Party suffered heavy losses in weekend local elections.

The party and its left-wing allies lost 26 of the 61 French departments (counties) they had previously ruled to former president Nicolas Sarkozy and his conservative allies.

The Socialists have seen their support crumble as Hollande and his government have failed to live up to promises to cut unemployment while tax hikes early in his term hit voters hard.

Hollande hopes to turn the euro zone's second-biggest economy around with reforms cutting corporate payroll charges and a bill currently in parliament that would open many professions up to more competition.

"The course has been set and we will stick to it," Hollande told journalists in Berlin after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Hollande's reformist Prime Minister Manuel Valls has attributed the Socialists' poor showing in the weekend elections to divisions within the left rather than voter frustration with government policy.

However, senior Green politician Cecile Duflot, who was housing minister in the previous Socialist-led government, accused Valls of not learning from losses in municipal elections last year.

"The course set by the government and the way it exercises authority are two factors for this (latest) failure," she said in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

"Determination is a quality, but stubbornness is a fault," she added.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Tom Heneghan)