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Sarkozy's party battered in French elections

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy cast their votes Sunday at a Paris polling station.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy cast their votes Sunday at a Paris polling station.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sarkozy's UMP party took just over a quarter of the vote, putting it in second place
  • Three leftist parties combined took just over 47 percent of the vote
  • Just over 46 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, down from about 60 percent in 2004
  • Sarkozy was elected president in 2007, beating Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal
RELATED TOPICS
  • France
  • Nicolas Sarkozy

Paris, France (CNN) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy's center-right party emerged badly battered after regional elections on Sunday, Interior Ministry figures showed Monday.

Sarkozy's UMP party took just over a quarter of the vote, putting it in second place behind the Socialist Party, which took 29 percent.

Three leftist parties combined -- the Socialists, Europe Ecology and Left Front -- took just over 47 percent of the vote.

The far-right National Front took 11.5 percent, and the centrist MODEM party trailed in last with just over 4 percent. About 11 percent of ballots were invalid, blank or cast for smaller parties.

The Socialist Party could be positioned to sweep to power in 20 of France's 22 domestic regions in the second round of voting next week if the voting pattern repeats itself.

"The French people want to punish the governing powers," political analyst Roland Cayrol said. "Members of the governing right attribute this score to the abstentions but in reality, the success of the left is indisputable. There is also an evident force emerging from the greens, which sends a clear signal to the Socialist Party that they are not alone in the left spectrum."

But the biggest winner in the first round of the two-part election was "none of the above" -- turnout dropped below 50 percent for the first time ever, Interior Ministry figures show. Just over 46 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, down from about 60 percent in 2004, and well below the previous low of about 57 percent in 1998.

National Front leader Jean-Marie le Pen was extremely satisfied with the results, saying, "The president declared that he had killed the National Front ... well I am here to tell the president that the National Front has been resuscitated!"

Sarkozy was elected president in 2007, beating Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal with 53 percent of the vote to her 47 percent.

Sunday's elections were the first round of the vote to elect regional leaders and councils. Next Sunday voters will choose between the finalists from the first round in France's 22 domestic regions and four overseas territories.

CNN's Niki Cook in Paris contributed to this report