France's President Francois Hollande
President Francois Hollande's Socialists are not surfing towards a landslide victory in parliamentary elections this month, yet a lesser triumph should still permit France's first left-wing leader in 17 years to rule effectively.
The stakes are high in the contest taking place on June 10 and 17, as the 57-year-old social democrat can only hope to implement his tax-and-spend plans if the left takes control of the lower house National Assembly, as polls predict.
But even a mix of hard leftists in a left-wing majority should not upset Hollande's chances of passing laws to enforce deficit-cutting and ratifying a European budget responsibility pact, given the opposition right would struggle to oppose the measures, reports Reuters.
The Socialist Party has no guarantee of winning outright control of the lower house and may end up depending for a majority on the support of the Greens, or the more radical left-wingers and communists of the Left Front.
That would not hamstring Hollande as long as the Socialists win enough seats to limit the leverage of the Left Front, given the Greens should prove a loyal parliamentary partner. Analysts see this as a plausible scenario.
While the prospect of hardliners winning greater influence may alarm some in the financial markets, the Socialists mastered such a partnership with aplomb when last in power, and even kicked off the privatisation of Air France under the tenure of a communist transport minister, Jean-Claude Gayssot.
That was part of a wave of privatisations launched under a left-wing coalition the Socialists led between 1997 and 2002, under the conservative presidency of Jacques Chirac, with the Greens and Communists as junior partners.
"It's hard to think of anything as poisonous that they'd be asked to swallow under Francois Hollande," said Paul Bacot, professor at the Institute of Political Studies in Lyon.
A week from the opening round of the election, the only near-certainty is that Hollande, itching to start work in earnest, will not be plunged into a paralysing "co-habitation" with the UMP party of his conservative predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.
All polls show the UMP set to lose control after 10 years in charge. On the positive side for the conservatives, the result is unlikely to be a rout, even if political scientists see it putting the UMP at risk of a break-up due to internal power struggles and mounting pressure from the far-right National Front.