France joins the band-wagon

France has jumped on the band-wagon passing around Europe – a swing to the right, giving President Jacques Chirac all the manoeuvring space he needs to see through his legislation but at the same time allowing him no space whatsoever in case of failure.

One thing is certain – the French people learnt their lesson in the presidential elections which saw the right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen swept into second place and the second round, which in the event saw Jacques Chirac re-elected with 80% of the vote on may 5th. This time, the National front did not elect a single member of parliament, while other more radical parties failed to make any inroads. The Greens managed only three seats, the Communists 20 and the extreme left, which had together managed 15% of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections, disappeared.

Jacques Chirac had asked the French people for a working majority and around 60% of them decided to vote for or against his plea. The other 40% stayed at home, constituting a record abstention rate after two rounds of presidential elections and a first round of parliamentary elections on 9th June, all without any clearly defined political messages.

The result of Chirac’s plea is clear: his Union for a Presidential Majority (UMP) has gained 375 seats in parliament, which gives him a working majority over the 202 members added up from the other political parties (27 from the centre-right UDF, 152 from the PSF, French Socialists, 3 Green Party and 20 PCF, Communists).

Robert Hue, Communist party leader, lost his place in parliament after a campaign in which his French Communist Party abandoned its Marxist references, leading its voters to vote for the Trotskyists (2.45% or one of the myriad of other parties, collectively registering 13.61% of the vote).

Chirac thus manages to finish with the peculiar French practice of cohabitation with the Socialists, while Jean-Pierre Raffarin is set to be re-instated as France’s Prime Minister, after resigning on Monday, due to the election, with the message that “We are obliged to not let the French people down. We shall work to improve their lives”.


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