Results in the first round of parliamentary voting in France show President Francois Hollande's Socialists poised to secure the majority needed to push through dramatic economic reforms.
Results issued by the Interior Ministry show the Socialists and their Green Party allies winning close to 46 percent of the June 10 vote, ahead of the 34-percent showing for the UMP of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was defeated by Hollande in elections last month.
The parliamentary results, once confirmed in a second round of voting June 17, are expected to hand Hollande the clear majority in the 577-seat National Assembly needed to push through reforms aimed at stimulating growth and avoiding austerity measures imposed elsewhere in the struggling eurozone.
"Our reaction is that we are very happy, obviously," said Parisian Elsa Genetay, a supporter of the Socialist Party. "Because now, with a majority in the National Assembly, Francois Hollande will be able to put his policies in place and now we really have the left in power, which will be able to change things in France, and I am very happy with this result."
Hollande has already pushed through a number of populist reforms, subjecting government ministers to a 30-percent pay cut and lowering the retirement age for some workers from 62 to 60.
But he is eager to usher in additional reforms, including a tax hike for the rich and a plan to hire an additional 60,000 teachers for the country's school system.
Socialist Party member Benoit Hamon, the junior minister for social economy, welcomed the vote's outcome but stressed that it would take the second round of to determine precisely how many seats would go to Hollande's team.
"This confirms that the French want to give Francois Hollande the means to make the policies for which he was elected on May 6th," Hamon said. "It's a positive first step. But we must amplify the mobilization, so that next Sunday Francois Hollande is able to make the policies he's wishing for."
The vote of confidence for Hollande may boost his status in Europe and make France a powerful counterpoint to Germany at a time when Berlin is leading the debate on how the continent's 17 eurozone countries should fight a growing financial crisis.
The election also saw a surge in support for the far-right National Front of Marine Le Pen, who has called for France to abandon the euro and fight what it calls the country's "Islamization."
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters