Election Fever Grips Politicians and Pollsters

French and European Flags
Europe Will Be the Central Campaign Issue

Election Need is Mystery to French Public

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Sunday, 27. April 1997:- After President Jacques Chirac's 10-minute announcement of the dissolution of the Assembly National Monday evening at 20:00, television in France has gotten election fever.

The President's appearance gathered an estimated audience of an 19.5 million viewers of all four broadcast channels. The two top channels, the private TF1 and the state's A2 each collected an average of over seven million viewers for the heated debates that followed the announcement.

The first poll results were published in Le Parisien Lionel Jospin in Wednesday's editions. Opinion was evenly divided about calling the elections, but a clear majority did not think the President's reasons for doing so were convincing.

Lionel Jospin, leader of the Socialist Party.

A large majority of the French think the elections will give them a chance to express their opinions; and by a majority they also think calling the elections is an admission of the government's failure to manage the current situation.

Slight majorities believe the elections will allow a change is economic policies and the present situation of France. A whopping majority think the whole exercise is a political manoeuvre. And this probably is behind the majority idea that the upcoming vote will permit a change in the government's team.

The French System

The French President is elected to serve a term of seven years. Members of the Assembly National are elected for five years. The President names the Prime Minister and asks him to form a government.

The President can dissolve the National Assembly whenever he chooses, but historically this has been done for only two reasons: when the party that forms the government loses its majority in national elections, and at a time of grave national crises.

This is the first time in the life of the 5th Republique that neither is the case, and the President has chosen a 'British' method, an election of 'anticipation' - anticipation of the hard road to travel to the deadline of European monetary union.

The majority faction in the Assembly National was composed of right-centrists. They were elected four years ago and they commanded 70 or 80 percent of all seats in the legislature; so in theory, they could do want they wanted to.

In practice, they did not seem to be in control in their own house - and this was sensed by the electorate and reflected in opinion polls that gave unwavingly low scores to both the President and the government's performance.

Quote of the Week

"C'est un vértible hold-up politique..." by Jean-Marie Le Pen, leading an ultra right-wing ultra nationalist party; ill prepared to contest a snap national election.

Politician of the Week

The best performance of the week was turned in by out-going Prime Minister, Alain Juppé. On TV he appeared serene, as if he had no concerns other than picking up a jumbo Loto win. In a couple of year's worth of polls, he has had the lowest approval rating it is possible to get without being dead. Alain Juppé Yet this does not seem to bother him a bit; as if it is a foregone conclusion that he will return to office as Prime Minister with a new five-year mandate.

Out-going Prime Minister Alain Juppé; cool and serene despite low ratings.

French politicians are allowed to run for multiple offices and serve in various bodies. Thus, the Prime Minister is also mayor of Bordeaux and this is where his personal power base is. In the national election he will be the a RPR candidate for Bordeaux, and if elected he will become a deputy of the National Assembly.

To get his old job back as Prime Minister, he will have to be selected for it by the President.

What the Polls Seem to be Saying

Polls about voting intentions are being held about once a day and if it continues it will get extremely tiresome. Early in the week polls gave the alliance of the center-right parties a majority of 332 seats to 221 seats for the center-socialist-communist parties. By week's end, both sides had fallen a bit and the score was 329 for the right and 202 for the left.

One of the most burning issues in France is unemployment. Asked on Tuesday whether the new government to be formed after the election, could be better able to significantly reduce unemployment, 61 percent of those polled said they didn't think so. Across the political spectrum, with the Greens being the most pessimistic, and RPR supporters being most optimistic, with 50 percent saying yes.

Some Foreign Comment

Daniel Cohn-Bendit - in 1968 known as 'Danny the Red' - and Jean-Marie Le Pen now a member of the German Green party and a Deputy Mayor of Frankfurt, agreed with some of Mr. Le Pen's comments. Mr. Cohn-Bendit thinks a short campaign will overdose the public and be a disadvantage to smaller parties like the Greens.

This is Jean-Marie Le Pen, but why is he happy?

All the same, he sees himself leading a Green list in the European elections of 1999, and if he does it in France he wants to see a Cohn-Bendit Green list beat Le Pen's National Front.

27 Days Left Until Election Day
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