French Socialists vow to create jobs for unemployed
May 21, 1997
Web posted at: 8:52 p.m. EDT (0052 GMT)
From Correspondent Jim Bitterman
PARIS (CNN) -- On a hot spring day in the working class city
of Loos, in northern France, the semi-annual boules
tournament is in full swing.
And for a Socialist on the campaign trail like Martine Aubry,
stopping by to watch a match and shake a few hands seems as
natural as the clinking of steel balls.
She knows instinctively that if the opposition Socialist
Party can depend on votes from anyone, it is from French
workers such as those at the match.
In Loos, as elsewhere throughout the country's rust belt,
factory and heavy industry jobs disappear daily. The
unemployment rate, around 12.8 percent nationally, is running
at 15 percent in the region where Loos is located.
The first part of the two-round parliamentary election is
Sunday; the second is June 1. The snap general election was
called nearly a year early.
Many French wary of Socialists
Along Main Street and everywhere else the Socialists
campaign, they emphasize plans to create 750,000 new jobs, to
reduce the work week to 35 hours without a pay cut and to
lower the retirement age.
"This is a medium-range goal, not only to share the jobs, but
also so people live better, and can enjoy their leisure
time," Aubry said.
But living with Socialists is something the French did for 14
years under the late President Francois Mitterand, and not
all believe it was living better. Many still blame Mitterand
for spending the nation into debt and encouraging a closer
union with Europe, which some say is costing jobs at home.
Socialist leaders deny Mitterand ever intended to create a
Europe purely for economic interests. They promise that if
elected, workers' rights will be protected, and that
employment, housing, and education will be high on their
'Another vision of democracy'
Some economists may be dubious about how France will pay
for it all. But it's what the Socialist faithful, worried
about all the changes in their world, want to hear.
"They have no future, they have no job, and violence is
rising and it's a problem for the world society anyway," said
one young woman at a campaign rally.
The Socialists suggest they are better suited to solve
"We want to introduce in our country another vision of
democracy, another vision of relations between people and the
government," said former Socialist Minister Jack Lang.
Another hot spring day in Paris, and Socialist and Communist
workers marched together. It was a united effort to defeat
the incumbent Conservatives whom they feel have no respect
for their rights.
"It's an everyday struggle to save the social right that
exists, but to also gain more," said a young man wearing
The left-wing candidates may not deliver what some in the
streets want, but they may be the only realistic hope for
those who oppose the Conservative majority of President
Jacques Chirac and French Prime Minister Alain Juppe.
Related sites: Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.