PRESIDENT François Hollande can look forward to a Left-wing majority in the National Assembly after the first round of elections saw the Left clear front-runners with more than 46% of the votes against 34% for the UMP and its allies.
Late polls suggested the grouping of Parti Socialiste, Front de Gauche and EELV ecology party would take between 283 and 329 seats in the new parliament, with the UMP and its allies picking up between 210 and 263.
It would be the first Left-wing National Assembly since François Mitterrand was elected in 1981 and the upper house, the Sénat, swung to the Left in last year elections.
It gives Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault a strong base for pushing through the legislation it wants in its bid to create economic growth and jobs in France.
However, after what Les Echos called "measured support for the president," Ayrault's government will not want to be negotiating with the EELV and euro-sceptic Front de Gauche before it can get each measure through parliament and is pushing for an outright PS victory in next Sunday's final round.
Ayrault said: "Change is beginning" and called for a "large, solid and coherent majority" next Sunday.
Hollande's key ministers all took commanding leads in their constituencies - with Ayrault, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and European Affairs Minister Bernard Cazeneuve all elected without need for a second round. However, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici heads for a thre-way vote next week.
In La Rochelle, former Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal took 32% of the votes in the first round but now finds herself in difficulty: facing a head-to-head with Olivier Falorni, the sitting MP who was excluded from the Socialist Party for refusing to stand down to let her have the seat unopposed.
Modem leader François Bayrou could lose his seat in the Béarn, where he will face a three-cornered battle with the UMP and Socialists.
The Front National, which took 13.6% of the votes nationwide, can take a maximum of three seats - with party leader Marine Le Pen and her neice Marion Maréchal Le Pen well-positioned in Hénin-Beaumont and Carpentras.
Marine Le Pen took 42% of the votes in the Pas-de-Calais seat, delivering a clear knock-out blow to her outspoken rival, Front de Gauche candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who withdrew after getting 21%.
UMP general secretary Jean-François Copé has ruled out any party alliance with the Far Right party to win seats, but former minister Nadine Morano has already called on FN supporters to back her in next Sunday's final round.
However, the record number of abestentions - nearly 43% did not vote - has caused Hollande to say he wants to start a debate on reforming the electoral calendar, which has already seen five elections in the past year. He plans talks with all the party leaders "in the autumn".
Photo: Danielle Bonardelle - Fotolia.com