All Together Now

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Right Turn!

Paris:- Monday, 10. June 2002:- Less than two-thirds of French electors went to polling stations yesterday. They gave a strong edge to centre-right parties, with Président Jacques Chirac's coalition UMP group scooping up slightly more than a third of all votes cast.

For the many candidates who did not gain outright majorities on Sunday, the run-off election will take place in the second round of voting next Sunday.

In most cases this will pit two candidates against each other. But any candidate who received more the 12.5% in the first round will be eligible, so some few of next week's contests will be three-way affairs.

Regardless of the final outcome, the centre-right is projected to gain a comfortable if not huge majority of seats in the next legislative assembly.

The centre-right benefitted from a massive reverse for the extreme-right Front National party, especially when compared to its scores in the recent presidential elections.

Added to this was the continuing slide of the Communist Party, lack of enthusiasm for 'Les Verts,' a sudden disinterest in the extreme-left parties, and the near disappearance of the CPNT, the party of the sports hunters and fishermen.

The Socialist Party also benefitted from these reversals, but since some involved their allies - the Communists and 'Les Verts' - the result was not favorable to the left overall.

The French who voted, seem ready to give the Président the majority he has asked for, so that he will have complete freedom of action. Since 1997 this seems to be the tendency in Europe too - a change of color from rose of the left to the blue of the right.

Modest Winners?

No more than a thousand supporters were assembled at the Maison de la Chimie, headquarters of the president's UMP group, when the poll results began to arrive. At first, they judged them worth white wine rather than Champagne.

Most UMP candidates were in their own electoral districts, but the current Prime Ministerphoto: palais bourbon, assembly national Jean-Pierre Raffarin, showed up 30 minutes after the polls closed to announce that the Président's electorial promises - would be kept.

The Palais Bourbon - where the Assembly National meets.

The Président himself, voted in the morning at Sarran in the department of Corrèze, together with his wife, Bernadette Chirac.

Oddly, the leader of the Socialist Party, François Hollande, also voted in Corrèze - at Tulle, where he is also mayor. He did not win outright and faces a strong opponent next Sunday.

Round Two - Next Sunday

Easy races are expected for former leftist majority leaders Laurent Fabius, Dominique Strass-Kahn, Yves Cochet, Noël Mamère, Elizabeth Guigou, Daniel Valliant and Jack Lang. Difficulties are faced by former ministers Martine Aubry and Dominique Voynet, and Communist Party leader, Robert Hue.

Right-wing luminaries facing easy races next weekend are Alain Juppé, Jean-Louis Debré, Patrick Devedjian, Philippe Douste-Blazy, Alain Madelin, Jean Tiberi and Jacques Toubon.

Go-it-alone François Bayrou, leader of the centrist UDF, should also make it. He declined to merge his party with the Président's UMP steamroller, and seems on his way to lead a small group of UDF deputies into the assembly.

Ex-socialist, now 'Pôle Républicain leader, Jean-Pierre Chevénement faces a difficult contest in the Territoire de Belfort.

On the extreme left, postman Olivier Besancenot was eliminated in yesterday's round one, as was the ultra right-wing FN dissident, Bruno Mégret.

The FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen wasn't in the race, but had a lot to say anyway about the disenfranchisement of the 11-12% who voted nationally for the FN. Few of this party's candidates managed to leap the 12.5% hurdle in their electoral districts.

Before yesterday's ballot, Mr. Le Pen was predicting that there would be 'more than 300' FN candidates in the second round. Instead, seven FN candidates will be taking part in three-way races next Sunday, plus 17 two-way contests against centre-right contenders and another seven confrontations against leftist candidates.

The anti-European sporting hunters and fishermen have a party, the CPNT, which did well in the last European elections and slightly less well during the recent presidential election. Yesterday, their leader Jean Saint-Josse was completely knocked out of the running.

At Cintegabelle in the Haute-Garonne, ex-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin turned up to vote in person for Socialist candidate Patrick Lamasle, which helped him to get the top score yesterday. Otherwise, Mr. Jospin is following the sports news on TV, of which there is quite a lot.

Numbers, Numbers

There are 577 seats in the French National Assembly. For yesterday's balloting, there were 8,446 candidates in the running for them. In Paris alone, in 21 voting districts, there were 464 candidates.

In order to reduce financial hanky-panky, three sets of legislation concerning campaign financing became laws between 1990 and 1995. Together, they are a bit complicated.

State aid for candidates can amount to 42,560euro 3 sign, plus 17 cents per inhabitant living in the electoral district.

Half of the state aid is based proportionallyphoto: election posters, blues over reds on the number of votes received, but only for parties that have at least 50 candidates. The other half is divided between the parties as a function of how many legislators have been elected.

Candidates are allowed to receive donations of up to 4600euro 3 sign, but these must be from private persons and not companies. Donations over 150euro 3 sign must be made by cheque. Cash donations cannot exceed 20% of the allowed expenses for the electoral district.

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