French Polling Station

Lionel Jospin Leads Left to Stunning Victory

Socialists Poll More Than RPR-UDF Combined

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Sunday, 1. June 1997:- Within minutes after 20:00, state TV France 2 announced the first estimates in today's nationwide voting in the second and deciding round of elections for the next National Assembly.

The parties of the left, the French Socialist Party and the French Communist Party, together gained a commanding majority.

Three hours after polls closed, definitive results from 478 polling stations out of 577, gives conservative paries a total of 201 seats, the socialist and leftist parties have 276 seats, and the ultra-right-wing Front National party, one seat. Estimates give the left about a 90-seat majority over the right.

Jubilation in the Socialist Camp

Scenes on TV from the headquarters' of the various winning candidates of the left, showed supporters receiving the news with giddy enthusiasm, as if France had won the World Cup.

After the initial estimates, TV coverage settled down to featuring a parade of talking heads from all parties, with many speakers for the conservative parties making better speeches than they gave while campaigning. All the Lionel Jospin same, the voting is over and so is the campaigning, as some of them were reminded by the winners.

No conservatives were volunteering to offer an explanation of why voters had turned against them after four years in power.

In fact, the voting results showed that voters were not happy with the recent leaders of the last four years, and despite the imminent prospect of Communists being in the government, had refused to be frightened by the prospect. Disregarding scare tactics, the voters massively rejected the overwhelming former conservative majority.

In doing so, the Socialist leader, Lionel Jospin; proved once and for all that he is an effective campaign leader. Shown on TV at the moment of the announcement of the initial estimates, he merely raised his eyebrows when he heard the number and let a slight smile pass quickly cross his lips.

Since former Prime Minister Alain Juppé's abandonment of the race for the head of the cabinet early in the week, substitute conservative campaign leader Philippe Sequin played catch-up with passion and determination - but it was already too late. An ardent supporter and practitioner of the democratic process, he was always worth listening to for his convictions.

Score of the Ultra-Right Front National

Recent polls showed the ultra-right-wing Front National getting about 15 percent of the vote, but the actual results were meager with the Front National managing only to get Jean-Marie Le Chavallier estimated seats, left and right of Toulon re-elected to the National Assembly.

This graphic of an early assembly seat esitmate, was unchanged hours later. Notice that the 'reds' are on the left.

It is obvious that the FN received many votes in the first round of the national elections a week ago - essentially in contests which counted for little other than advertisements of discontent.

Nevertheless, as a 'talking head' on TV after results were announced, the leader of the Front National, Jean-Marie Le Pen, continued to repeat his major campaign themes.

Major losers were FN number two Bruno Megrét, handily beaten by about 10 points, and Mr. Le Pen's daughter, who was also beaten in a three-way race at Mantes in Yvelines. She was leading after the first round and in the polls, but the Socialist candidate carried the day, with 40 percent of the vote against her 24 percent.

Voting Conditions: Weather On Sunday

TV weather news only shows the future and not the past and I saw no weather reports today. The recent brilliant weather turned cloudy and windy overnight, but if anything, probably increased the likelihood of balloting.

Mayor of Paris Re-elected to National Assembly

Jacques ChiracJean Tiberi, RPR, was returned to national office as representative of the Quartier Latin - Paris' 2nd voting district - after an extremely hard-fought and emotional campaign. The Paris Mayor has been the subject of considerable local criticism, and it was thought his position at the Hôtel de Ville would lack authority in the case of a national-level rejection.

President Jacques Chirac gave a short speech on TV early in the week.

The Last Polls

Officially unofficial and illegal for publication in France, the last polls showed the probable results as being too close for a prediction of the eventual winner, given their usual plus-minus three percent margin for error.

Analysts will not doubt have month's worth of work in front of them to decipher these tea leaves. Did the partial late publication of polls change voters intentions, or not?

The End of the Campaign

Watching the results, polling district by district, I am Philippe Seguin struck by the generally handy majorities of the winners. Where scores are close, they are on the order of 53 to 47, a healthy five-point difference. Although I am not going to watch all 565-odd separate results, I doubt there will be any 50.5 to 49.5 scores.

Philippe Seguin, called in to lead the conservatives at the last minute, talked non-stop for a week but failed to stop the march of the left.

French Election Web Sites

For minute details about the National French elections, the numbers will be found at one or more of the web sites below.

There are some details I would like to know such as the rate of abstention. It doesn't look like TV is going to furnish it, and I doubt very much that I can get access to the Web myself tonight.

France 2 TVExtensive coverage, including latest results from election day balloting.

Radio France International Basic coverage in French also features audio files.

The newspaper Libération's Web site - also featured on Metropole's 'Links' page in every issue.

Le Parisien's Web site also has complete election results.

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