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Sunday, 16 June, 2002, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Chirac allies win landslide
UMP supporters in Paris
Centre-right supporters are in jubilant mood
Centre-right parties supporting President Jacques Chirac have won a resounding victory in the second round of France's parliamentary elections.


We have an obligation not to disappoint

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin
The UMP - an alliance of groups backing the recently re-elected president - already has an absolute majority of more than 289 seats, according to partial results released by the Interior Ministry.

Exit polls suggest that the UMP could eventually win as many as 399 of the 577 seats in the assembly.

The Socialists - who won the last parliamentary elections in 1997 - have held on to about 150 seats, according to exit polls.

Election casualties
Martine Aubry
Jean-Pierre Chevenement
Robert Hue
Dominique Voynet
Gilbert Mitterrand

The polls also indicate that their Communist allies won 23 seats.

The far-right National Front appears to have won no seats despite leader Jean-Marie Le Pen's strong showing in May's presidential vote.

Sunday's vote brings to an end the five years of uneasy "cohabitation" Mr Chirac has endured with a left-wing prime minister.

Winner takes all

The results will give conservatives their biggest parliamentary majority since 1993 and offer Mr Chirac a strong mandate to implement crime fighting measures, tax cuts, and the reform of labour laws and a state pensions.

Jacques Chirac
Chirac now has a huge majority in the assembly
The president's allies dominate not only the national assembly, but also hold sway in the Senate, in the constitutional court and the broadcasting council.

The BBC's Tim Franks, in Paris, says you have to go back almost 40 years to see a similar concentration of presidential power.

Our correspondent says voters turned to the centre-right for a number or reasons. The majority of French people, according to opinion polls, were fed up with "cohabitation".

The interim prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, was a canny appointment by Mr Chirac after his re-election as president.

Mr Raffarin is ostensibly not part of the Parisian elite, but he turned his lack of glamour and oratorical skills into a virtue.

Reacting to the early results, Mr Raffarin hailed his supporters' success and said it was time for action to deliver on President Chirac's policies.

Left-wing rout

The Socialists, meanwhile, were led by an interim leader who failed to paper over the divisions within his own party and who campaigned on what some perceive as a negative message: "Don't give the centre-right too much power."

Jean-Pierre Raffarin votes
Prime Minister Raffarin is set to stay on
The Socialists, still in disarray after being knocked out in the first round of the presidential elections by the far-right, were hoping for a high turnout to limit the UMP's victory.

However 40% of eligible voters appear not to have gone to the polling stations - a record level for French parliamentary elections.

The election failure of some big name Socialists underlined the extent of the party's defeat.

Among the casualties were Martine Aubry, a former labour minister who brought in a law reducing the working week, maverick former interior minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement, and Gilbert Mitterrand, son of the late president Francois Mitterrand.

The leader of the Communist party Robert Hue also lost his seat north of Paris, as did former environment minister, Dominique Voynet, who was party secretary of the Greens.

Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen said he was not disappointed by the failure of his National Front to get a single seat, because he had not expected to win any.

"I will be in good company - along with ordinary French people who have no right to representation in the assembly," he said.

Mr Le Pen has argued that the system works against the Front.

However analysts say that after the surprisingly good result Mr Le Pen achieved in the first round of the presidential election, many voters turned away from his anti-immigration message.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Sopel
"The centre-right have cruised to victory"
Pollster Gilles Corman
"It's a huge majority"
Socialist Francois Zimeray
"We have to rebuild"
The BBC's Paul Andersson, at the centre-right rally
"There are scenes of absolute jubilation here"

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16 Jun 02 | Europe
16 Jun 02 | Europe
07 Jun 02 | Europe
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