Le Monde reports:
"The Left obtained 59% of the votes in six metropolitan regions where it dueled with the Right, according to TNS-Sofres/Logica. In 12 regions where there were triangle races joined by the National Front, the Socialist Party and its allies scored 49%, against 33.5% for the Right and 17.5% for the National Front"
("La gauche confirme son succès, l'Alsace reste à droite" Le Monde; via Monthly Review)
Around 49% of the electorate did not vote, a record level of abstentions, compared to 34% in the second round of the 2004 regional elections.
While the National Front has improved on its weak European election showing, the first round showed Daniel Cohn-Bendit's Europe Ecologie green party in third place ahead of the FN, as part of the victorious red-green-left alliance.
The unusual spectacle of a united French left and a disunited right means that the 2012 Presidential election now looks open. But both the candidate and the political direction of the left's challenge to Sarkozy remains very open too.
The Guardian editorial writers this morning suggest that Martine Aubry's chances of a Presidential run have been much strengthened:
Martine Aubry has been the Socialist heroine of this election. The daughter of Jacques Delors, she has struggled to impose her authority over a party dominated by large political egos. With one wobble (a row with the president of Languedoc-Roussillon, who made an antisemitic allusion to the former prime minister, Laurent Fabius). Ms Aubry held the show together and formed a valuable alliance with Daniel Cohn-Bendit's Europe Écologie. Having, for the moment, seen off the former Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royale, and faced with the possible return of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who may find that running the IMF does not make the strongest springboard for the presidency, Ms Aubry is in a good position to press the case for her own candidacy against Mr Sarkozy in 2012.
British Labour MP Denis MacShane writes in Newsweek on the prospects of a Dominique Strauss-Khan candidacy:
As Sarkozy fiddles, France's new Socialist Party leader, Martine Aubry, has calmly been building her team. This quiet approach paid off in the recent elections, as the French voted against their anything-but-quiet president. And the Socialists hold a powerful card they have yet to play. The current head of the International Monetary Fund is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist who won plaudits as Europe's best finance minister in the 1990s. Now, like a latter-day de Gaulle, Strauss-Kahn lurks in the wings, preparing to challenge Sarkozy's lackluster administration in the 2012 presidential race. Bad midterm elections with a low turnout are not precise guides to the upcoming national contest. But Sarkozy has lost his invincibility and, for France's Socialists, that just might make the difference.
Strauss-Khan now tops the Paris Match popularity league table of French public figures with a 76% approval rating, and led Sarkozy 61-37 in a Presidential match up poll last month. But he would have to quit his IMF role, where his term does not end until October 2012, early to contest a Socialist Primary in 2011. So he would want to be pretty certain of being the candidate, but gave a decidedly non-Shermanesque response to speculation last month:
Strauss-Kahn told French radio [in February] that he planned to see out his mandate, but added: "If you ask me whether in certain circumstances I could reconsider this question, the answer is yes."
Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate in 2007, was re-elected governor of the Poitou-Charentes region with an estimated 61% of the vote on Sunday, and may also re-emerge as a Presidential contender.