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Poll forecasts large victory for Sarkozy's right in legislative vote

France opened campaigning Monday for June legislative elections, with a poll showing that President Nicolas Sarkozy's right would get 40 percent of the vote in the first round.

A strong majority in the voting June 10 and 17 is key to Sarkozy's ability to carry out his program of renovation for a France with a sputtering economy and social tensions.

A poll published Monday reflected expectations that the right would profit from the momentum of Sarkozy's May 6 victory and divisions within the ranks of its Socialist rivals.

The poll by the TNS Sofres-Unilog firm showed Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement getting 40 percent of the vote, far ahead of the Socialists with 28 percent.

The presidential elections shook up the political landscape with Francois Bayrou's centrist party disintegrating and 24 of its 29 deputies joining Sarkozy. Bayrou, who was a presidential candidate, formed a new Democrat Movement with hopes of giving birth in France to a social democratic wing. However, his young group risks being crushed by the right, which has lured in his followers.

Sarkozy played a deft hand in putting together a government, announced Friday and led by longtime faithful Francois Fillon, that reaches out to centrists and even to Socialist enemies. A close Bayrou ally, Herve Morin, was named defense minister and a leading Socialist figure and human rights pioneer, Bernard Kouchner, was given the foreign ministry.

In the poll, conducted Friday and Saturday among 1,000 people, candidates from Bayrou's new party, referred to as MoDem, would get 15 percent of the vote.

The 40 percent for Sarkozy's supporters would give the president and his allies 365 to 415 seats in the 577-seat lower house. No margin of error was provided, but in a poll of that size it would usually be plus or minus three percentage points.

Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande warned followers over the weekend that an overwhelming majority for Sarkozy's right would put all the power in the hands of the president and "it is the French who would be in difficulty."

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