After the first round, this is how the (left-leaning) Dutch "Volkskrant" analysed the results:
[..] The personal consequences of the results [in terms of government posts] constitute an interesting subject of all kinds of speculations in Paris, but at least as interesting is the question why the voters are so dissatisfied.
In the last two years, there has hardly been a tough right-wing policy, as the socialist opposition would have us believe. Whereas in the Netherlands the government applied a stringent policy of budget costs in order to keep conforming to the European norm, the French government allowed the budget deficit to rise to 4,1%, royally above the 3% limit. That financial space was used to meet the wishes of all kinds of interest groups.
The government-Raffarin did try to tackle some tough problems, which the previous left-wing governments had skirted. Thus the reform of the pension system and the exploding health care costs were agendized by Raffarin. But half the French people rebelled against his pension plan last spring, because it was perceived as an attack on acquired rights. Consequence: the reform that was eventually pushed through parliament in the summer last year was rather too weak than too tough.
After all the trouble over the pension plan, Chirac and Raffarin decided to tackle the rising health care costs very cautiously. Here, too, the government can be reproached for too little, rather than too much forcefulness.
[The French voters] blame the government for the rising unemployment (9,6% of the labour force, amply above the European average of 8%). More than other European citizens, the French expect their government to create those jobs. That it is only partially capable of that, is not part of the collective consciousness. [..]
"The French want change", was the reaction in the socialist camp after last Sunday's victory. One can maintain just as easily the opposite; the French do not want change, the 'acquired rights' are holy to them. Any government who thinks differently about that, is punished. [..]
At least as interesting as the analysis itself is the fact that this was the comment in what arguably is the most leftwing newspaper in Holland. The political differences between the countries in Europe are clearly sometimes still bigger than those between the political camps, and thus a Dutch (or British) leftwinger might well occasionally end up to the right of France's conservatives.