- - Sunday, June 17, 2012

PARIS — French President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party won a solid majority in parliamentary elections Sunday, polling agencies projected, fortifying his push for governments to spend money, not cut budgets, to tackle Europe’s economic crisis.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives, who dominated the outgoing National Assembly, suffered a stinging loss, according to all estimations. Meanwhile, the far-right National Front party was on track to win a small but symbolically important presence in parliament for the first time in years.

“This new, solid and large majority will allow us now to pass laws for change and gives us great responsibilities in France and in Europe,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on France-2 television as the results started coming in.

Elections in France and Greece on Sunday will weigh on Europe’s future and whether its debt troubles will hobble markets and economies around the globe. France is the second-biggest economy in the eurozone and, along with powerhouse Germany, contributes heavily to bailouts for weaker nations and often drives EU-wide policy.

France’s Socialists will have between 308 and 320 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly after Sunday’s second-round parliamentary elections, the TNS-Sofres Sopra Group, Ipsos and CSA agencies estimated. The pollsters’ projections were based on actual vote counts in select districts around the nation.

That’s well over the 289 the Socialists needed for a majority, and it means they won’t have to rely on far-leftists who oppose some of Mr. Hollande’s pro-European policies to pass legislation.


Reactor deal impending for new class of nuclear subs

LONDON — Britain will announce this week a $1.57 billion contract to build reactors for its next generation of nuclear submarines, the defense minister said Sunday.

Philip Hammond confirmed he would be unveiling a deal for engines for a new class of submarines that would replace the current Vanguard fleet carrying Trident nuclear missiles.

The decision could cause a new rift in Britain’s coalition government, with Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives in favor of keeping Trident, but the Liberal Democrats wanting a cheaper alternative.

A British government source said Mr. Hammond would make the announcement Monday.

The Sunday Telgraph newspaper said the Ministry of Defense would fund an 11-year refit of a Rolls-Royce Ltd. plant that would build two reactor cores, one for the Royal Navy’s seventh Astute submarine and the second for a new ballistic missile sub.

Britain has four Vanguard-class submarines designed to carry Trident nuclear missiles. They are expected to be decommissioned in the late 2020s, but their missiles will remain operational until 2042.


Swiss voters reject more referendums

GENEVA — Swiss voters decided Sunday that they have enough democracy already, dealing a heavy defeat to a proposal to hold more referendums on international treaties.

A nationalist group in the already referendum-happy Alpine republic wanted voters to have an automatic say every time their government signs an important international agreement.

But with ballots from 17 of the country’s 26 cantons, or states, counted, none had voted in favor and opponents of the proposal were ahead by 73.3 percent of the vote to 26.7, Swiss television reported.

Since a proposal needs the majority of voters and cantons to pass, that meant it had failed - as was widely expected before the vote.

Most major parties opposed the measure, saying it could gridlock Swiss democracy with constant ballot calls. Switzerland already holds about half a dozen national referendums each year in addition to local ones.


Suu Kyi urges refugees to support Myanmar

OSLO — Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi paid a jubilant visit to the Norwegian city of Bergen, where she urged refugees from her ethnically divided homeland to build harmony and support cease-fires.

Mrs. Suu Kyi flew Sunday to Bergen on Norway’s fjord-studded west coast a day after delivering her Oslo acceptance speech for the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. In Bergen she met leaders of another Norwegian group that offered her early support, the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, which awarded her its highest prize in 1990.

She spoke in Burmese to more than 100 Myanmar refugees living in Bergen, many of them members of minority groups hostile to the country’s military-backed government. She urged them to say nothing to undermine cease-fires in place between government and ethnic militia forces.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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