'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 whoever is characterized as head of the right-wing RPR-UDF-DL grouping.

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

The Socialists were shown in second place with 27%. Their recent allies, the Communists and Les Verts, were not included in PS' total. The FN was credited with an 11% intention to vote, which is quite a bit less than its leader got in either of the two presidential rounds.

The legislative elections also have two rounds, and the above poll results only refer to the first.

Unlike the presidential election, where the top two candidates proceed to the 2nd round if there is no outright winner in the 1st - for the legislative elections the leading three candidates fight it out in the 2nd round.

No amount of political-science degrees will aid anybody trying to figure out in advance how this will turn out. There will be some 1st-round outright winners, but for the 2nd round there will be some 'triangles.'

Voters whose candidates didn't make it in the 1st round will switch votes in the 2nd. Candidates will drop out to favor the chances of others. There will be a lot of shuffling, wheeling and dealing.

It is the Président who decides who will form his government. If the parties that support him end up with a majority after the legislative elections, then he will not be faced with the dreaded 'co-habitation.'

The New Government

In the meantime, during the short period leading up to the results of the legislative elections for seats in the Assembly National, the Président will designate a new Prime Minister, who will form a government to run France for the next 42 days.

Today this choice has settled on Jean-Pierre Raffarin. This experienced politician is a member of the Democratic-Liberal Party, led by Alain Madelin. He was a minister in Alain Juppé's government in the mid-'90s, but mostly has played a regional role in Poitou-Charentes, as well as being a Senator.

After having a chat with the Président he has had a day's ride around town - in a Peugeot 607 - to the Prime Minister's headquarters at the Matignon, then to the Senat, and back to Matignon where he shook hands with Lionel Jospin, who said goodbye to him and everyone else.

The composition of the government is expected to be announced tomorrow, but tonight's TV-news has put forward the names of Nicolas Sarkozy as 'super' Minister of Security - a new post, with 'zero tolerance' - Philippe Douste-Blazy as Minister of Education, and Chirac's Elysée Palace manager Dominique de Villepin as Foreign Minister.

For the period leading up to the coming elections, a lean crew of only 15 ministers is expected. So far, with the names mentioned, all three leading right-wing parties are represented - RPR, UDF and DL.

With his eyes focused firmly on the presidential elections in 2007, Alain Juppé is busy trying to construct a new party out of the three mentioned above, with yet a new set of initials - the UMP, or the 'Union Pour la Majorité Présidentielle.'

The Bank Gang that Disappeared

On Friday morning, radio France-Info was exciting listeners with the news of a bank robbery with a hostage situation at a branch bank in Montrouge, just south of Paris.

After receiving an alert at 9:37, the special police unit called 'Raid' prepared a security cordon around the bank and readied itself to storm the building, free its hostages and capture the bandits. The Route Nationale 20 was closed, everything was in place.

With daring and elan, the 'Raid' unit penetrated into the bank's interior. They found no hostages and no robbers in it. The bank's seven employees had calmly managed to escape though a window.

This left the two to four robbers with no means to rob anything. For two hours the police were allowed to listen to the bank's interior via its security system, but they didn't hear a peep.

The foiled robbers, from two to four of them, remain at large.

Home-made Easy Money

After months of investigations, the Police Judicière at Cergy near Paris raided the rented room of 'Mohamed Z' at Pontoise, to look for the source of phoney ID papers that have been circulating.

Quite a bit to their surprise, they also found 80,000 in fake euros, plus the equipment to make thephoto: petit palais counterfeit notes - a computer, hard disk, scanner, printers, and empty ink cartridges.

'Mohamed Z,' a known robber who reconverted himself to high-tech, was capable of producing phoney ID cards and bank notes that police said were of 'good quality.'

The city's Petit Palace is closed during its restoration.

This unexpected discovery of counterfeit-euro production has been the first in France since the new currency was introduced at the beginning of the year. Police are examining the hard disks they seized, and they would like 'Mohamed Z' to make some explanations, but he hasn't been overly talkative.

Le Parisien has described the computer equipment as 'high-end' but the report only mentions a portable computer as the central unit. The rest of it, with the possible exception of a laser printer, sounds pretty much like what I've got sitting in front of me.

What I don't have is any 50euro 3 sign or 200euro 3 sign notes as samples for making copies.

Spring Weather Warnings

Paris is not an exciting weather area. But quite a bit of snow has been falling in other areas of France, which has been annoying motorists and people who like mountain sports such as climbing on them.

France-Météo's alert service is mainly for northern, central, mountainous, eastern, western Atlantic coast, all types of southern and offshore areas of France - that occasionally or regularly have more extreme weather than the Ile-de-France region.

If you are curious or want to know more about France's so-called spring weather, give the Météo-France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts. Check out the warning-prone 'Vigilance-Météo' area on the opening page.

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