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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 22:02 GMT 23:02 UK
Chirac rallies French voters
Jacques Chirac in interview
Chirac wants to avoid the "paralysis" of cohabitation
French President Jacques Chirac has called on voters to support his right-wing coalition and boot the left from parliament, just days before legislative elections which his forces are tipped to win.

Mr Chirac urged them to reject "cohabitation" - the five years of awkward coexistence between his right-wing presidency and the left-wing parliament - saying the "aim of democracy is not paralysis".

"It is evident that with the problems we are facing... there needs to be action backed up by a real majority," he said in his first TV interview since re-election.

French politics was rocked this spring, when Mr Chirac faced the far-right populist Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election.

Government boost

The most recent opinion polls suggest that his Union for the Presidential Majority (UMP), a coalition uniting three of France's main right-wing parties, could well win a majority in the two-stage election on 9 and 16 June, ousting the left from power.

Striking French doctors
French doctors have boosted the government by agreeing to end their strikes
The right-wing caretaker government appointed by Mr Chirac after the resignation of Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin last month has made much of French fears over law and order in its short life. It has also promised some significant tax cuts if it gains power.

The government received a boost on Wednesday when French doctors signed a pay deal with social security officials which should end months of strikes.

The deal, which will raise GPs' consultation fees and the costs of home visits, was reached after eight hours of discussions overnight aimed at appeasing doctors, who had been closing surgeries in protest at pay.

The brief record of Mr Chirac's interim government also includes an expensive crackdown on crime. The cabinet has already approved the use of rubber bullets by police officers, and plans to spend billions of euros on new taskforces.

Crime is an issue widely believed to have fuelled support for Mr Le Pen in April's presidential elections, and one which Mr Chirac has also prioritised.

Latest ratings

Current opinion polls give the right-wing coalition a 5% lead over parties of a left-wing alliance in the first round of voting, and an even wider margin in the second and final round.

Mr Le Pen's National Front is expected to take around 14.5% in the first round, and around 12% in the second.

Opinion pollsters seriously misjudged the first round of the presidential elections, and have lost public confidence, but correspondents say the Socialists are nonetheless braced for a serious defeat.

Despite a worthy track record in government, the left has come across as leaderless since the Mr Jospin's departure from the helm.

Some observers even feel it would be to the Socialists' advantage to stay out of power for the next legislative term, avoid a series of tricky and unpopular issues that lie ahead of the next government and work out a new identity.

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06 Jun 02 | Europe
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