French leftists gain ground in parliamentary vote
May 25, 1997
Web posted at: 9:36 p.m. EDT (0136 GMT)
PARIS (CNN) -- France's leftist opposition capitalized on
voter discontent Sunday to win a large portion of the vote in
the first round of a two-stage parliamentary vote. The left
is now within reach of a stunning upset in next week's
decisive runoff, exit polls indicate.
French President Jacques Chirac called the elections 10
months early, hoping the electorate would endorse his
economic austerity program. But two years after Chirac came
to power, the unemployment rate has soared, and currently
remains at an unstable 12.8 percent.
A L S O
With 90 percent of the districts counted, Chirac's coalition
had 30 percent of the vote, the Socialists 23.9 percent, the
far-right National Front 15 percent, the Communists 9.8
percent and ecologist parties 6.7 percent.
Exit polls suggested the left was within striking distance of
taking a majority of seats, if the Socialists and Communists
could form a government. A governing coalition needs at least
289 seats out of the 577.
Chirac's conservative coalition controlled 80 percent in the
More than 6,000 candidates from 68 parties are vying for 577
seats in the National Assembly. In races where no candidate
gets a majority, runoffs will be held June 1.
A leftist victory in the June 1 runoff would force Chirac
into a "cohabitation" with the left. If that were to happen,
political analysts say it would likely force Chirac to part
with his current policies -- viewed by the opposition as
threatening France's cherished system of social and labor
Despite the outcome in Sunday's election, Prime Minister
Alain Juppe appeared optimistic about next week's vote.
"We are calm and determined," he said in a news conference.
"I urge all those who did not vote for us on the first round
to think carefully before voting on the second round."
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.