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Sunday, 5 May, 2002, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Voters resigned to 'duty over choice'
Pro-Chirac poster
A poster reads: "You must vote Chirac. You must"

They were not wearing rubber gloves nor did they have clothes pegs on their noses - recommended by some activists as required protection for voters uncomfortable about supporting conservative Jacques Chirac.

Instead they wore an air of weary resignation as they headed for the polling stations.


I can't bear either of them... I can't vote for either of them

Robert Lachaise
"You can hardly call it a choice, it's more like carrying out a duty," said Olivier Petit, a human resources consultant.

"I'm telling myself that it's not a vote for Chirac, but a vote against Le Pen."

"It's sad that Le Pen has made it into the final round, but I don't think this should be seen as some sort of referendum on the extreme-right," said Emmanuelle Gerot, a public relations account manager and supporter of the incumbent president.

"It's an election, and if Chirac wins, which he probably will, it will be a just victory."

Crucial margin

Very few people seriously believe that Mr Le Pen could beat Mr Chirac in this second and final round of the vote.

However the margin by which he is defeated is seen as crucial, both to the standing of Jacques Chirac in his next term in office and to Mr Le Pen's National Front.

Rene Szpindel
Rene Szpindel: "What happened in the last round was a catastrophe"

The National Front would enter June's parliamentary elections in a strong position if it had a sound performance in the presidential polls in the bag.

Polling institutes, embarrassed by their failure to predict Mr Le Pen's success in the first round, have shied away from making anything but the most cautious estimates in the run-up to Sunday's vote.

Mr Le Pen, who picked up 16.86% of the vote on 21 April, has widely been given a estimated score of between 19% and 25% in the second round.

Paris is not the heartland of the National Front, and Mr Le Pen's friends in the electorate here are not forthcoming in declaring their support for the far-right leader.

'Catastrophe'

"There has always been racism and xenophobia in France, and Le Pen has always been able to feed off that," said Rene Szpindel, who had voted for the Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the first round, and had just cast his ballot for Mr Chirac at a polling station in Le Marais.


The fact that he has got as far as he has worries me... it has given a certain amount of legitimacy to not liking immigrants

Dia Davuda Moussa

"What happened in the last round was a catastrophe - but actually Le Pen's score hasn't really changed that much from the last presidential elections.

"It's just that the Socialists, and Jospin, did so badly - they need to get their act together, and I hope they do it soon."

In and among the voters heading for the polling stations are also those who will not be casting a ballot today.

"I'm confident Le Pen won't win, so I'm not worried that I'm going to get put on the next flight back," said Dia Davuda Moussa from Mauritania, an asylum seeker who has been in France since 1999.

"It's more the fact that he has got as far in this election as he has which worries me, as it has given a certain amount of legitimacy to not liking immigrants," said the 35-year-old, who has no right to vote.

"It's given people a licence to say and do things they would normally think twice about. That's the real problem - the 'Le Peninisation' of France."

'No to both'

Others still will not be voting.

"I can't bear either of them," said Robert Lachaise, a 54-year-old engineer. "I can't vote for either of them."

A record 28% of registered voters abstained in the first round of the presidential elections.

The rate of abstention in this round could mean the difference between a major landslide for Mr Chirac, and an encouraging turnout for the far-right.


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02 May 02 | Europe
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