France voted yesterday in regional polls forecast to punish Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling party, the last ballot-box test of his popularity ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
Voters struggling from the global economic slowdown are expected to give the governing UMP party a drubbing at the polls during the two-round vote yesterday and on March 21.
It is the first election held in France since a year-long recession sent unemployment soaring to its highest level in a decade, with nearly three million people now out of a job. "I don't think the national government is really tackling social welfare – in terms of jobs for example," said Patricia Abela, a 41-year-old insurance worker, after voting for the Socialists in southwest Paris.
Sarkozy is struggling with his lowest approval ratings since his 2007 poll and analysts say he no longer looks unbeatable in 2012.