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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Muted reaction as France heads right
French voter
All smiles - but many voters are still unhappy

French voters have given President Chirac what he had been dreaming of - the promise of a right-wing government to put his ideas into action.

But with a continuing high level of absentions, and voter disillusionment, the election outcome was less than a ringing endorsement of the right.

"More than anything, it's a rejection of the left, a disappointment with the left, which did not implement any of its programmes while it was in power," says 52-year-old video editor Guy Selenati.

Guy Selenati
Guy Selenati: It's a rejection of the Left
Normally a socialist supporter, he was simply too disillusioned to bother voting - but may still turn out in the second round to try to stop the country's rightward drift.

"I'm afraid that the liberals will become stronger and that the wealthy will become wealthier and the poor will be forgotten by the majority," he says.

Mr Selenati was among a record 36% of French voters who stayed at home in the first round of a parliamentary election.

We shouldn't be pessimistic. We have to wait and see

Computer engineer
Jean-Pierre Coinon
The level rose despite the fact that stay-away voters were partly blamed for the turmoil of the presidential election.

On Monday, Mr Chirac and the political establishment were quietly celebrated the end of the hated "cohabitation" period, which had seen a left-wing government and a right-wing president virtually cancelling each other out.

But some voters said they had preferred the cohabitation.

"It's good that one power does not have a free hand to do what it wants," Nadia Chevalet, 44, who works in fashion.

Her colleague, Rosa Curtis, 53, believes the whole election is an undemocratic mockery.

"The French vote for parliament, and then they have to go back and vote again in the second round - why? It creates a situation where the extreme right can arbitrate and give power to the left," she said.

Bernard Lebar
Bernard Lebar: Expecting little to change
Pharmacist Bernard Lebar expects little change from the government of Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

"Sure, Raffarin will try to make reforms, but the minute the French take to the streets to protest against his reforms, he'll back down, like all the governments before him," he added.

Computer engineer Jean-Pierre Coinon, 46, expressed cautious optimism.

"We shouldn't be pessimistic. We have to wait and see. The fact that Raffarin is saying this will be a government of action is new, after all."

Sandra Bordeaux
Sandra Bordeaux: Angry at Socialist Party
Assistant film director Sandra Bordeaux says the left have emerged with little credit.

"I voted for the Socialists, but I'm very angry at the Socialist Party, because it was not able to create a debate," Ms Bordeaux, 29, said.

France's centre-left daily, Le Monde, says Chirac can no longer hide behind the excuse of cohabitation.

"The right is not beginning a new era for France, as the left did in 1981. The government does not benefit from the same historical confidence," Le Monde's editorial adds.

The left-leaning daily Liberation, says that in order to avoid making the country ungovernable, "the French have chosen the lesser of two evils: A very concentrated majority, with no powerful opposition, is better than cohabitation again."

But the paper reminds the conservative majority to take into account the "explosive social atmosphere" that still exists.

The right-leaning Le Figaro is also cautious.

"Although the president of the Republic was elected by two out of three of the registered voters, rarely has the national cohesion seemed so weak, and rarely was the future of the country so uncertain," says the editorial.

It adds that history has given Mr Chirac a second chance to enter into the pages of history by solving some of the same problems he faced after the elections in 1995.

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See also:

10 Jun 02 | Media reports
09 Jun 02 | Europe
07 Jun 02 | Europe
05 Jun 02 | Europe
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