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Alex Wong | Getty Images North America (zimbio.com)
Mandel Ngan | AFP/Getty Images (blogs.wsj.com)
French people are voting in regional elections that are expected to reflect widespread disenchantment with President Nicolas Sarkozy's government.
It is the last nationwide vote before presidential and parliamentary elections due in 2012.
The opposition Socialist Party already controls 20 of the 22 mainland regions and hopes to take the other two.
The poll ratings of the centre-right president have plunged in opinion polls and unemployment has risen to 10%.
The BBC's Emma Jane-Kirby, in Paris, says that although the election is meant to be about regional issues, voters are bound to use this opportunity to punish the central government.
Ahead of Sunday's first round, Prime Minister Fillon told voters: "Do not listen to those who claim it's a foregone conclusion."
Mr Sarkozy's UMP party was credited with 30% support - the same as the main opposition Socialist Party.
But the socialists are expected to forge alliances with Green and other left-wing parties ahead of next Sunday's second round.
The Socialist Party is deeply divided at national level, but remains strong in regions.
Analysts say party leader Martine Aubry, who has been criticised by rivals, is hoping a good result in the current polls will boost her chances to become the socialist candidate in the 2012 presidential election.
ROVE: No, no. Tom with all due respect that was not the policy of our government that we were going to go into Iraq and take their resources in order to pay for the cost of the war. … [T]he suggestion that somehow or another the administration had as its policy, “We’re going to go in to Iraq and take their resource and pay for the war” is not accurate.Watch it:
When Glenn Beck told listeners of his radio show on March 2 that they should "run as fast as you can" from any church that preached "social or economic justice" because those were code words for Communism and Nazism, he probably thought he was tweaking a few crunchy religious liberals who didn't listen to the show anyway. Instead he managed to outrage Christians in most mainline Protestant denominations, African-American congregations, Hispanic churches, and Catholics--who first heard the term "social justice" in papal encyclicals and have a little something in their tradition called "Catholic social teaching." (Not to mention the teaching of a certain fellow from Nazareth who was always blathering on about justice...)
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