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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
French press marks 'blue wave'
President Jacques Chirac
Chirac still has much work to do, the papers suggest
The French press agrees that the centre-right will win the parliamentary elections, but does not think the Socialists have fared too badly and is generally cheered by the poor showing of the extreme left and right.

Le Monde, the influential centre-left daily, said the gap between governors and governed would remain, even if Mr Chirac got the centre-right majority he wanted and the extremes of left and right were banished.

"The French political system is in crisis, and if nothing is done to provide a cure for it, this crisis will gradually get worse," the paper says.

"Even if the head of state wins the majority that he is asking for and the much-despised cohabitation is swept aside, even if the extremes on the Left and Right recede, it is clear that nothing will have been resolved.

"The urgent task now is to re-establish confidence between those who govern and those who are governed so that democracy can flourish."

The Left has to be rebuilt but for the first time the Socialist Party will be almost the only player


The conservative daily Le Figaro said that the result had endorsed President Chirac and left the extremes in retreat and the left weakened, despite the high level of absentions.

"The French yesterday opted for coherence," says the paper.

"We were expecting a right-wing government of uncertainty, a weakened Left and a consolidation of the extremes.

"The Left shrunk but the extremes are clearly in retreat at national level. Despite the record rate of abstention, the 'democratic' reaction of 5 May (when voters backed Mr Chirac against far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election) continued yesterday.

"By putting the Union for the Presidential Majority and its allies clearly in the lead, voters have chosen to give a majority to the president and his prime minister."

"Hard to the Right!"

The left-wing Liberation sees some consolation for the Socialists in their "fine score" of votes, but the decline of the Communists and Greens leaves them with no electoral allies. This should prompt a rethink on the left to make the Socialists electable again, it says.

"The electors have cleaned the house up... The extremists on the Right have been pushed to the sidelines where they have lost most of their power to blackmail, just like the extreme left-wing groups which are back in the closet.

"A fine score for the Socialist Party will provide some comfort for its leader Francois Hollande but it no longer has any allies.

"The Left has to be rebuilt but for the first time the Socialist Party will be almost the only player: it will need to change and open up to its old allies if it is to become an electable force again."

The Ouest-France, mass circulation regional daily says the stability of the Socialist vote was reassuring for democracy, but repeated public criticism of the Socialists for having failed to run a common slate with the rest of the left.

"Voters thought that Francois Hollande, the leader of the Socialist Party, was wrong not to have opted to field single candidates of the Left in each constituency.

Statist French policies make Tony Blair more of a man of the right than Chirac.

International Herald Tribune

"Although the Communist Party's collapse was confirmed and the Greens made no headway, the Socialist Party held up well, so much so that come 25 June it will probably be virtually the only opposition force in the new National Assembly... We thought it was dying," the paper says.

"French democracy demonstrates that it still has life in it. That's reassuring."

"Right heading for big victory"

Les Echos , the leading business daily, saw the result as a rejection of cohabitation between left and right and a rebuff to the extremes.

"A wave of blue has covered France and it should favour the arrival of a large moderate Right majority in the National Assembly next week (after the second round of voting on 16 June).

"The French, who were hostile to another period of 'cohabitation', rejected the extremes which - both Right and Left - were in clear retreat compared with 21 April."

The Paris-based International Herald Tribune said there was no real swing to the right in the Anglo-American free market sense, as President Chirac remained committed to a powerful state sector.

"No new innovative horizons for France, and barely any political momentum that might influence a rightward turn for all of Europe, emerge from the strong showing by President Jacques Chirac's conservative allies in Sunday's first round of parliamentary elections," it points out.

"Despite the election results, France will continue to live with the characteristically statist French policies that in most respects make Tony Blair, Britain's Labour prime minister, more of a man of the right than Chirac."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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