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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Chirac names moderate as PM
Jacques Chirac after winning election
Chirac's real challenge is to beat the left in June
Re-elected French President Jacques Chirac has chosen a little-known senator, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, as his new prime minister.

Mr Raffarin, from the centre-right Liberal Democracy Party, has previously served as a government minister for small businesses. He is seen as a political moderate.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin
Jean-Pierre Raffarin: Named as new French PM
He was named shortly after defeated socialist Lionel Jospin went to the Elysee Palace formally to resign as prime minister - two weeks after his shock elimination from the presidential race.

Mr Chirac went on to win a landslide victory, taking more than 82% of the vote in Sunday's second-round poll, leaving his National Front rival, Jean-Marie Le Pen, trailing on 18%.

The new prime minister will have the task of leading the right into the June parliamentary election in the hope of dislodging the ruling left-wing coalition.

Mr Chirac trounced Mr Le Pen in Sunday's run-off vote after voters surged to the polls to keep out the far-right.

French opinion polls released on Sunday night suggested that centre-right parties backing the president would win a small majority in the National Assembly.

But the BBC's James Coomarasamy reports from Paris that many of those celebrating victory on Sunday night were cheering the defeat of the far right rather than the success of Mr Chirac.

'Booted out'

Crowds poured onto the streets of Paris as Mr Chirac hailed a defeat for "intolerance and demagoguery".

Results with 97% of votes counted
Jacques Chirac: 82.06 %
Jean-Marie Le Pen: 17.94 %

"We have gone through a time of serious anxiety for the country - but tonight France has reaffirmed its attachment to the values of the republic," he said.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair described the result as "a victory for democracy and a defeat for extremism", while European Commission president Romano Prodi said the French people had demonstrated that their nation belonged to the heart of Europe.

There had been almost daily anti-Le Pen protests in France between the two rounds of voting, with 1.3 million demonstrators pouring on to the streets on May Day alone.

"The French people wanted to teach the politicians a lesson in the first round but this time they wanted to boot out the extreme right and they did it," said Dany-Lois Sabarroli, a schoolteacher who took to the streets Paris to hail the result.

Chirac needs to take the concerns of his country far more seriously

Mr Le Pen admitted defeat, calling it a setback for "the hopes of the French" - but he pointed out his share of the vote had risen from the 16.86% achieved in round one.

Saying that France was in the hands of "robbers" - a reference to sleaze allegations that have dogged President Chirac - he pledged to continue the fight in next month's parliamentary election.

Mr Chirac scored a mere 20% in the first round - a record low for a front-runner - but his margin of victory in the second round was the biggest ever in a French presidential election.

Chirac's plans

Mr Chirac has already served as president for seven years, but for most of that time he has been little more than a figurehead leader as a result of "cohabitation" with a Socialist government.

In his victory speech, he said the top priority for the new government would be the fight against crime.

"Freedom means security, it means the fight against violence... Reducing violence is the first priority of the state in the times to come," he said.

Some observers have suggested that Mr Le Pen's success could cause the left to bounce back for the June vote - which Socialists are referring to as the "third round" of the presidential election - resulting in another period of cohabitation.

To register a protest at the absence of a left-wing candidate, some voters wore gloves or pegs on their nose as they cast their ballot.

The BBC's Jon Sopel
"The National Front didn't do as well as they hoped"
President Jacques Chirac
"We have just lived through a time of grave uncertainty for the nation"
Jean-Marie Le Pen, National Front leader
"The result I have obtained is remarkable, it places us as the main political force"
National Front deputy leader Bruno Gollinisch
"You can't suppress a strong political trend such as ours"
See also:

06 May 02 | Europe
Chirac victory in quotes
06 May 02 | Europe
Uncertain road ahead for Chirac
06 May 02 | Europe
In pictures: Chirac's victory
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