'France Wins!'

photo: cafe bistro au canon de la nation

Another café waits for the May Day parade on Wednesday.

New Government To Be Formed

Paris:- Monday, 6. May 2002:- As soon as polling stations closed at 20:00 last night in France, the first estimates of the results gave presidential candidates Jacques Chirac a score of 82.1 percent and Jean-Marie Le Pen 17.9 percent.

Overnight, the Ministry of the Interior has issued official but possibly not definitive results. These give Jacques Chirac a total of 82.21 percent and Jean-Marie Le Pen, 17.79 percent. This morning's Le Parisien headline reads, 'La France a gagné.'

The abstention rate fell from the first-round's level of 27.4 percent of eligible voters, to 19.6 percent. Blank or invalid ballots were 5.4 percent of all those cast.

Out of an electorate of about 41 million registered voters, Mr. Chirac polled 24,742,300 and Mr. Le Pen received 5,446,987 votes.

While Jacques Chirac benefitted from leftist voters' determination to 'stop' the ultra-right candidate, Mr. Le Pen increased his vote score yesterday.

Rumors during the two-week campaign that Le Pen would get 30 or 40 percent of the vote turned out to be pure fantasy. Le Pen was reported as saying that getting less than 30 percent would be a 'defeat.'

Election Night TV Coverage

The private channel TF1 began its election night broadcast at 19:00, while state-owned channel France-2 went on the air at 18:50, followed by France-3 at 19:30. Only TFI was shown as programming a weather forecast before the non-stop election show.

At one minute before the polls closed at 20:00,photo: poster, 9th parlement des enfants, 11 may France-2 broadcast the initial 'Ipsos' estimate of the poll results - which are mentioned above. TF1 gave a 'Sofres' estimate of 82.05% for Chirac at 20:00, followed three minutes later by 17.5% for Le Pen. At the same time, France-3's estimate was 81.7% for Chirac.

Then, while polling stations around the country busily counted the ballots cast, political heros from both left and right traded some not-so-pleasant pleasantries on the little screen.

This was finally interrupted about 21:30 by live coverage showing the newly re-elected president leaving his campaign headquarters in the company of Madame Chirac, for a short ride through rain-slickened streets to the Place de la République.

Here a bandstand had been erected, and a sizeable crowd had slowly gathered in relentless and freezing rain, to enjoy an election victory party.

As in 1995, TV cameramen on motorcycles and scooters attempted to keep up with the presidential limo - a Peugeot 607 - as it sought a way to get to the rear of the stage at République.

After some confusion and hesitation, the Chiracs gained the stage to be greeted by cheers. The Président made a prepared speech with inhabitual animation which was greeted with enthusiasm. That it was short didn't seem to bother Madame Chirac, who wasn't dressed quite as warmly as her husband.

It began with, "Ce soir, nous célébrons la République," and ended with, "Merci. Je compte sur vous."

Twenty minutes after arriving the couple were back in their car and on the way to the Elyséephoto: pont alexandre iii Palace, followed again by TV cameramen on motos. TF1 captured the arrival while France-2 was stuck outside the gates for a moment.

The Pont Alexandre III during one of the week's gloomier days.

At some time just before 21:00, France-2 broadcast from the Front National's headquarters in Saint-Cloud. Jean-Marie Le Pen says, 'The political conditions of the second round of the elections have been those of a totalitarian country,' because the media is 'against him.'

He says Chirac's win is 'Soviétique.' The man from the Ipsos polling organization says Chirac's score is the 'best in the 5th République.'

While victors and losers are having their day, leftists gather in a forlorn Place de la Bastille to have a 'Le Pen-defeated' election night party in the rain.

For the night, the police force numbers 2000. It estimates the victory party at République to number about 10,000, lasting until about midnight - and the 'defeated' party at Bastille is credited with drawing out 6000 before it wanders damply off to the Quartier Latin.

The Next Elections

While waiting for definitive vote results, the TV channels entertained viewers with guests invited from various political parties.

While a Le Pen activist is credited with saying that Chirac owed his re-election to the turnout of the 'left,' nobody from the right in the TV studios was in any hurry to thank the leftist leaders present for any favors.

The centre-right has never been able to understand how 'co-habitation' works - meaning a right-wing Président with a left-wing government - and has worked for the past five years.

The right-wing doesn't seem to remember that its last government failed - to work - and still seem unaware that they haven't put their political pieces back together. They might do it tomorrow. But they've had a lot of 'tomorrows' in the past.

The left has suffered a terrible humiliation. Many of its supporters voted for Jacques Chirac yesterday and for many of them, it was the first time in their lives that they voted 'right.'

The feeling on the left is that yesterday's vote was a 'referendum' calling for support of the republic. "We did our job," they say. Now it is time to move on the legislative elections.

These take place in France on the Sundays of 9. and 16. June. In a CSA poll taken after last night'sphoto: assemblee nationale election results were known - in theory - those polled said they would give priority to whoeve is characterized as head of the right-wing RPR-UDF-DL grouping.

The next battle will be for control of the Assembly National.
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