Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, June 17, 2002

News Analysis: France Bids Farewell to Right-Left 'Cohabitation'

After two rounds of voting, France's center-right parties scored a landslide victory in Sunday's fateful legislative election by ending power-sharing "cohabitation " between the right and the left and ushering in a new era for a right-wing government.


After two rounds of voting, France's center-right parties scored a landslide victory in Sunday's fateful legislative election by ending power-sharing "cohabitation " between the right and the left and ushering in a new era for a right-wing government.

The right coalition supporting re-elected President Jacques Chirac achieved a sweeping majority in the 577-seat lower house of the National Assembly, the Interior Ministry announced after counting votes in the 555 mainland constituencies and 11 of its 22 constituencies in overseas departments and territories.

The right coalition thus secured the right to appoint a new prime minister and form a new government and, more importantly, a repeat of power-sharing "cohabitation" is avoided.

The newly-created Union for Presidential Majority (UMP), dominated by the Rally for the Republic, won 350 parliamentary seats, becoming the biggest party in the National Assembly.

Since the 1980s, the French have seen three periods of " cohabitation" between the right and left in the country's national political arena. Several factors contributed to the victory of the right coalition in this year's legislative election.

After a five-year "cohabitation" period from 1997 to 2002, when a right-wing president and a left-wing prime minister shared power, French voters and political figures have come to see the disadvantages of power-sharing "cohabitation": inefficiency in government agencies, decline of national authority, deterioration of the social order and a persistently high unemployment rate.

Moreover, wrangling was not unusual between the president and the prime minister. The friction kept the two contained by each other and little was achieved during the "cohabitation" period.

On the other hand, Chirac's victory in the presidential election boosted the right's morale and the right-wing parties were united by the goal of seizing a parliamentary majority.

In campaign activities for the National Assembly, Chirac repeatedly talked about the disadvantages of power-sharing " cohabitation," saying only by winning a definite majority in parliament can his government effectively carry through right-wing policies and realize his promises made during the presidential election campaign.

After the first round of voting in the presidential election, the UMP, a center-right coalition -- dominated by the Rally for the Republic -- was formed to recruit individuals and parties supporting Chirac. It presented its list of candidates for the National Assembly in 530 constituencies nationwide.

Having won the presidential election, Chirac named Jean-Pierre Raffarin, vice president of the Liberal Democracy party, who is known for his down-to-earth style as prime minister of the transitional government, and hopes to win the hearts and votes of the French people with concrete action.

Seizing the one-month period before the parliamentary election, caretaker Prime Minister Raffarin and his government worked out a series of programs to realize campaign promises on social order, law enforcement, tax cuts and other social and economic issues, all of them top concerns of French voters.

Raffarin also kicked off negotiations with trade unions over certain social issues. Through dialogue, the lingering crisis involving the country's doctors has been solved. With these efforts, Raffarin and his government successfully built a favorable image among French voters.

Finally, the defeat of Lionel Jospin in the presidential election and his decision to quit political life deprived the left of any sense of direction and resulted in a slumping of morale.

Although the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Green Party and radical left party leaders tried to make a comeback by winning a majority in the National Assembly and continue power- sharing "cohabitation," many leftists felt stuck in a dilemma. While they do not want a repeat of right-left "cohabitation" and are even willing to see a right win, they are fearful of an expansion of far-right influence.

Rising far-right influence was contained following massive protests against it between the two rounds of voting during the presidential election. In this year's parliamentary election, the number of candidates of the far-right National Front entering the second round of voting dropped sharply, compared with the 1997 election.

In 1997, 134 National Front candidates made it into the second round of voting, while the number fell to a mere 30 this year. The National Front was able to retain one seat in the National Assembly in 1997, but this year, it secured none.

Now that the presidential and parliamentary elections in France have ended with a right win, French voters are turning their eyes on the new leaders and the new government, keen to know how they deal with the problems facing France today.

Questions?Comments? Click here

French Right Parties Win Majority of Votes in Legislative Election


Two S.Korean Girls Run Over by US Armored Vehicle ( 44 Messages)

Bill Clinton Has Unexpectedly Become a 'Sweet Cake' ( 4 Messages)

Englishman Hired as Chief Advisor of Yunnan Provincial Government ( 2 Messages)

24 Killed, 13 Injured in Beijing Cyber Cafe Fire ( 5 Messages)

American Farm Bill Threatens Chinese Farmers: Analysis ( 3 Messages)

Home-made Auto Sales Head for 3 Million in 2002 ( 3 Messages)

Copyright by People's Daily Online, all rights reserved