French Prime Minister concedes
Socialists win stunning upset
June 2, 1997
Web posted at: 2:32 a.m. EDT (0232 GMT)
PARIS (CNN) -- French Prime Minister Alain Juppe conceded
defeat in Sunday's national election, saying his
center-right coalition "did not manage to convince the
French people that we were going in the right direction."
The Socialist Party captured 252 seats, giving its coalition
a total of 275 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly,
just 14 short of an outright majority. The Communists won 39. The non-aligned far-right National
Front party took a single seat.
Socialist leader Lionel Jospin is expected to be named as
the new prime minister by President Jacques Chirac, dividing
the powers of the national government between a conservative
president and a Socialist premier. In France, such divided
government is known as "cohabitation."
"We now have the obligation to mobilize all our energies,
all our hearts, all our skill to make this political change,
for which we were elected, work," Jospin said.
He characterized the election results as "a reasoned and
pressing demand for real long-term progress for the French
people, especially the least-favored."
After a weak showing in the first round of voting last
Sunday, the unpopular Juppe had announced that he would
resign no matter how the election turned out. That political
sacrifice, an effort to bolster his coalition's chances in
the second round, wasn't enough to change the outcome.
"The people have spoken. Their decision is sovereign. We all
respect it," Juppe said. "I wish good luck to those who will
now govern France."
Overall, parties of the left, including Socialists,
Communists and ecologists, will hold 314 seats, election
projections showed. Parties of the mainstream right,
including the center-right coalition of Juppe and Chirac,
will hold 262 seats. The far-right National Front will hold
By contrast, in the last election in 1993, the center-right
coalition won about 80 percent of the seats. Under French
law, Chirac could have continued for another 10 months with
that parliament, in which his forces dominated.
But he chose to take a gamble and call elections early in
hopes of improving his coalition's chances of victory -- a
gamble that clearly didn't pay off.
The loss Sunday is expected to make it much more difficult
for Chirac to press ahead with a program of austerity
measures needed to qualify France for admission into a
single European currency, the euro.
Jospin favors the euro but not many of the austerity
proposals. And he may still form a governing coalition with
the Communists, who are opposed to the euro altogether.
However, because of their strong showing, the Socialists may
be able to form a coalition government with ecologists and
other non-Communist allies on the left, leaving out the
France's stubbornly high unemployment, which Juppe's
government was unable to bring down, was one of the main
issues in the election.
Chirac and Juppe had pushed for more free-market reform and
austerity. In a country where a fourth of the work force is
on the state payroll and government spending accounts for
half the gross domestic product, the efforts were met with
strikes and protests, highlighted by walkouts that paralyzed
much of France in late 1995.
During the campaign, Jospin called for the creation of
700,000 jobs, half in the public and half in the private
sector. The Socialists also want to cut the work week from
39 to 35 hours with the same pay and support reimposition of
government controls on layoffs.
Correspondents Jim Bittermann, Peter Hume and Reuters contributed to this report.
- French left wins stunning upset, exit polls show - June 1, 1997
- France runoff may hinge on voter turnout - May 31, 1997
- In a bind, Chirac appeals to French voters - May 27, 1997
- French premier announces he'll step down - May 26, 1997
- French leftists gain ground in parliamentary vote - May 25, 1997
- Chirac's Conservatives favored as French campaigning ends - May 23, 1997
- French Socialists vow to create jobs for unemployed - May 21, 1997
- French heartland voters cynical as election nears - May 19, 1997
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