Flash News

French and European Flags
Europe Will Be the Central Campaign Issue

President Chirac Announces Early Elections

Paris:- Tuesday, 22. April 1997:- On last night's main evening TV-news broadcasts, President Jacques Chirac of France announced the dissolution of the National Assembly and the date for new elections. Polling for the first round is scheduled for Sunday, 25. May. Top-scoring candidates will contest runs-offs to be held the following Sunday, 1. June.

The announcement, proceeded by a weekend of fevered speculation, was expected. In his television appearance, President Chirac gave a relaxed 10-minute explanation for the year-early elections. Chirac on TV Monday night Wearing a mid-green suit, he seemed less formal than usual.

Last night's Presidential broadcast re-run on LCI-TV News this morning.

In the background, both French and European Union flags could be seen, giving a hint to the purpose of the snap elections.

Although right-wing parties currently hold a considerable majority in the legislature and elections are not necessary until next year, France is going to require a very firm budget in order to meet standards for European monetary union.

In the short term this is going to hurt nearly all residents, and politicians will have to accept almost certain unpopularity, so elections now will weed out those not determined to see the process succeed.

Germany is in a position similar to that of France; high unemployment and budget deficits that do not now meet currency union terms. Chancellor Helmut Kohl has decided to run for an unprecedented fifth term, in order to shepherd that country through the coming ordeal.

Great Britain's position is much better economically than either France or Germany, and their coming elections revolve around voter fatigue with long-term conservative governments, and the fact that many conservatives do not wholeheartedly support European Union or Great Britain's membership in it.

Election debate in France will be interesting, because centrists of both the conservative and socialist camps agree that France's full membership in European Union is necessary.

The tough part will be telling both highly-taxed working voters and the unemployed that the conditions France has to meet will call for yet more austerity - long before any benefits from union will be seen. However, the country Tuesday's Liberation front page has seen this coming for a long time, and cramming the hype necessary to put this over into a four week campaign, will no doubt reveal endless new varieties of French 'logic.'

Libération's front page this morning.

The 'radical,' but democratic, right-wing parties hold about the same position as Mr. Le Pen's ultra-nationalist Front National party, with both of them being against France's membership in the European Union.

Voters who have been supporting the Front National in order to show their displeasure with the government, will be hard pressed to do so when the issue is not immigration or urban safety, but the very future of France - which has already been decided upon by parties who will gather a majority of votes in any case.

The French Communist Party, led by the respected Robert Hue, will promote a 'social conscience' election theme, as a reminder to the majority parties that France is inhabited by actual people and not mere poll statistics. Many socialists and the small 'Green' party will also follow this line.

Several of this morning's Parisian newspapers suggest that this election is the third round of the last Presidential election: a repeat contest between Jacques Chirac and the Socialist Party's Lionel Jospin. This is nonsense, because the presidency of Mr. Chirac is not at stake; he used his unique presidential prerogative in order to call this election.

As leader of the conservative Gaullist RPR party, Mr. Chirac probably wouldn't mind seeing the Socialist Party pull off a slight majority result. The coming additional budget restraints are bound to hurt more people than who are already in agony - and if the 'others guys' can be blamed for it, when voters get their next chance to vote - it will probably be against whoever caused the pain.

Following President Chirac's announcementTuesday's Le Parisien front pagelast night, state-owned A2 TV-news devoted the rest of its airtime to the first election debate; featuring leading members of all parties. When it wasn't an outright shouting match, it was mainly a verbal brawl, and the three government ministers present seemed neither particularly adept at shouting or brawling.

Le Parisien gets it wrong this time - it's 'Euro' Round One.

The latest polls indicate that the left and right are about equal, with 40 percent of voters indicating a preference for one or the other. This seems to indicate that this election will not be some sort of referendum about France remaining in the European Union, but will be to decide who takes the blame for it.

The contests in the Ile-de-France are sure to be a hard fight because the right-wing parties scooped up a rare and large majority in the last national elections; and the left thinks it is poised for a comeback. The Ile-de-France sends 99 deputies to the National Assembly, and these usually reflect the national proportions of seats for the various parties.

Beamed in to A2-TV's debate from an unknown-location TV studio, the Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen's major objection to the elections seemed to be that they will be held on Mom's Day. He also characterized the premature election as a 'holdup,' probably in anticipation of the losses about to be suffered by his marginal party.


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