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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Chirac names moderate as PM
Jean-Pierre Raffarin
Jean-Pierre Raffarin: A strong defender of free markets
Buoyed by a resounding victory, French President Jacques Chirac has chosen a little-known moderate senator, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, as his new prime minister.

Mr Raffarin, from the centre-right Liberal Democracy Party, will have the task of rallying right-wing voters and wooing the fragmented left in the run-up to next month's parliamentary election.

Resigning PM Jospin and President Chirac at Elysee Palace
Jospin (left) had five years of uneasy "cohabitation" with Chirac
A former businessman experienced in public relations, he is seen as a grass-roots consensus politician. His only previous national post was as minister for small businesses from 1995 to 1997.

He was named shortly after defeated socialist Lionel Jospin went to the Elysee Palace to resign formally 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 far-right National Front rival, Jean-Marie Le Pen, trailing on 18%.

Final results
Chirac - 82.21%
Le Pen - 17.79%
Voter turnout - 79.71%

Mr Chirac, who spent five years sharing power in an awkward "cohabitation" with Mr Jospin, is looking to Mr Raffarin to deliver a victory for the right in the 9 and 16 June elections to the National Assembly. The left-dominated parliament remains in place until then.

Campaign role

Mr Raffarin, 53, played a leading role in Mr Chirac's re-election campaign. Correspondents say Mr Chirac may have chosen him for his moderate image and perceived distance from the metropolitan elite.

Mr Le Pen's shock success in the first round has been seen as a sign that many voters feel alienated from national politics.

We must now listen more closely to the needs of our citizens

Socialist Party spokesman Vincent Peillon

The mass street protests in opposition to Mr Le Pen after the first round have led some observers to predict a backlash in favour of the left in next month's elections.

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

Voters' relief

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.

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

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.

Mr Chirac hailed a defeat for "intolerance and demagoguery".

"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.

Fighting crime

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.

Mr Le Pen called his defeat 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 Mr Chirac - he pledged to continue the fight in next month's parliamentary election.

The BBC's Jon Sopel
"The National Front didn't do as well as they hoped"
The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"Raffarin is a moderate conservative"
See also:

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