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Sunday, 16 June, 2002, 22:35 GMT 23:35 UK
France's leading man
Jacques Chirac leaves the polling station
Chirac is the most powerful president in 40 years

Jacques Chirac now has an extraordinary amount of power at his disposal.

He was hamstrung for much of his first term in office by having to work with a Socialist government.

Now, his centre-right allies dominate the national assembly.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin votes
Raffarin's appointment was a 'canny' one
President Chirac also holds sway in the Senate, in the constitutional court and the broadcasting council.

You have to go back almost 40 years to see a similar concentration of presidential power.

Voters turned to the centre-right for a number or reasons. Certainly, it campaigned on a populist platform.

The majority of French people, according to opinion polls, were also fed up with what is called "cohabitation" - the president of one political hue, the government of another.

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

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

Election's losers

The Socialists, meanwhile, were led by an interim leader who failed to cover the divisions within his own party and who campaigned on the rather defeatist slogan of "don't give the centre-right too much power".

The far-right National Front, once again, has failed to win any seats, a case of the system working against it, it will argue.


Ahead for the prime minister and president, an ambitious programme of tax cuts, public sector reform and a crackdown on crime

But after the surprisingly good result the front's leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, achieved in the first round of the presidential election, France's voters turned away from the Front's strident anti-immigration message.

Ahead for the prime minister and president, an ambitious programme of tax cuts, public sector reform and a crackdown on crime.

It will be difficult to deliver, especially within the budgetary constraints, that France - as a member of the European Currency Union - has to adhere to.

At least now, with the parliament as it is, President Chirac has all the necessary levers at his disposal.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
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
07 Jun 02 | Europe
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