Sunday's vote left Hollande's Socialist Party bloc likely to secure the 289 seats needed for an outright majority in the National Assembly on its own.
French President Francois Hollande is on track to win a solid parliamentary majority. Photo: EFE
French President Francois Hollande is on track to win a solid parliamentary majority after a first-round election, bolstering his position as he tries to persuade Germany to promote growth more in tackling the euro zone crisis.
Sunday's vote left Hollande's Socialist Party bloc likely to secure the 289 seats needed for an outright majority in the National Assembly on its own, and almost certain to do so with its Greens Party allies on board, polling institutes said.
Runoffs will be held next Sunday among the leading parties in constituencies where no one scored 50 percent. Initial projections based on a partial count of the first round
suggested the Socialists alone could win 283 to 329 seats.
The projections indicated Hollande may not need to rely on eurosceptic hard leftists to pass legislation, relieving him of a potential headache as Berlin pressures its partners to start moving towards a fiscal union in Europe.
"The realisation that the crisis is serious and that the government needs elbow room to get the country back on track is playing in favour of the government winning an absolute majority," said Stephane Rozes at the CAP political consultancy.
Socialists were muted in their reaction, anxious to keep the pressure on supporters to vote in the runoff, but winning power in the lower house for the first time in a decade would be a triumph for the left after it took the Senate in 2011 and won the presidency in May after 17 years on the outside.
"Change is beginning," Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said. But he warned: "Everything hinges on next Sunday."
Hollande needs a coherent majority to back him on adjustments to the 2012 budget to reflect sickly growth, and on a tax reform including raising taxes on the wealthy to fund
Pressure to integrate
Even more crucial will be possible legislation in the months ahead to grant European Union institutions more power over national budgets, something that would be hard to get lawmakers outside his party to swallow.
A lurch back into crisis has increased the pressure for the euro zone to mutualise its debt and integrate its bank sector to protect depositors and governments - measures that the bloc's paymaster Germany says it will only consider if member states agree to deeper fiscal integration.
Hollande broadly supports the integration that Merkel is now demanding, but being reliant on hard leftists or conservatives to grant more budget power to Brussels would carry the risk of calls for a referendum and could trigger street protests.
Hollande flies to Rome on Thursday to discuss the crisis with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. The pair will rub shoulders with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at a G20 summit in Mexico on June 18-19 - right after the parliamentary second round and a Greek election.
The euro zone crisis has provided fodder for National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who built on her strong score in the presidential elelction by taking a commanding lead on Sunday in a working class constituency in northern France.
In all, National Front candidates qualified for the second round in four constituencies, the closest that the far-right party has come in years to winning a parliamentary seat.
No deals with Le Pen
However, the head of the conservative UMP party, Jean-Francois Cope, ruled out any deals with the National Front not to field candidates against each other.
"My role is to solemnly call on French people who don't want the left to hold all the power for the next five years to say that now is the moment to act," Cope said on Europe 1 radio.
"It does not seem to me to be a good idea to give all the power to Hollande, who risks splitting France off from the rest of Europe."
The president is set to announce budget adjustments by the end of June after a national audit office assessment of public finances that is expected to show growth is flagging.
Given the pressure on France to cut its deficit, spending plans may have to be delayed or cut, measures that would make a parliamentary majority a boon for Hollande.
If the Socialists alone cannot secure a majority next Sunday, then their natural allies, the Greens, appear certain to help them over that hurdle.
The CSA polling institute forecast that Socialists plus Greens would have 295 to 347 seats, well ahead of the mainstream conservatives on 210 to 263 seats. "We need a strong majority to focus on jobs, growth, and justice so the country can be put right," Socialist Party head Martine Aubry said on France Inter radio.
"Our country's situation is dire and we've got to mobilize ... to abandon austerity," she added.
The Left Front of radicals and Communists could make an impact with a projected 13-19 seats, but its firebrand leader Jean-Luc Melenchon did not win a seat.
None of Hollande's key ministers were seen at risk of losing their seats - which would force them to quit the cabinet.
Ayrault, along with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and European Affairs Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, were all re-elected in the first round with more than 50 percent. Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, who like Hollande is staunchly pro-European,
looks on track to win a three-way runoff on Sunday.