French left wins stunning upset, exit polls show
June 1, 1997
Web posted at: 2:48 p.m. EDT (1448 GMT)
PARIS (CNN) -- The Socialist-led opposition won an
outright majority in French parliamentary elections Sunday,
exit polls indicate. The victory would be a stunning upset
over President Jacques Chirac's center-right coalition.
The Socialists and their allies won 289 seats, the exact
number needed for a majority in the 577-seat National
Assembly. Along with Communists and ecologists, the combined
left won 333 seats, French television TF1 reported.
The center-right coalition won 243 seats, and the extreme
right National Front Party won one seat, projections showed.
The center-right coalition held an 80 percent majority in the
Polls opened at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) throughout France and
closed at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT). Official figures were expected
later in the evening, but the television projections have
proved accurate in the past.
'A new opportunity'
"For me these elections would be a new opportunity for France
in the next century," one voter told CNN earlier.
Other voters were indifferent. Marc Morelli, 20, said it
doesn't matter whether "you vote for the right or left, it
always stays the same. Once they get in power, their promises
are worth nothing."
The outcome of Sunday's runoff balloting was thrown wide open
by last week's first round, which saw France's leftist
opposition capitalize on voter discontent.
Only 12 seats were decided last week, with the left garnering
about 40 percent of the vote compared to the center-right's
Chirac called the elections 10 months early in his search for
a mandate for his economic austerity program.
But with the jobless rate at a record high 12.8 percent,
unemployment was a key concern among voters, many of whom are
wary of Chirac's austerity plan. The president has been
driving France to meet strict criteria to join the euro, the
European currency to start circulating in 1999.
In the campaign's final days, Chirac's governing coalition
had sought to soften its line on cutting the deficit to
qualify for the euro while still reducing unemployment.
Chirac scrambled to turn the tide after last Sunday's first
round. The president jettisoned Premier Alain Juppe, France's
most unpopular prime minister since the 1950s. Philippe
Seguin, the popular and somewhat euroskeptic National
Assembly president, had been touted as the likely prime
minister should the right win.
If the projected results hold true, however, Chirac will be
forced to "cohabit," or share power, with a hostile
government led by Socialist leader Lionel Jospin.
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