Socialist Worker

French election verdict: none of the main parties have cause to celebrate

Issue No. 1804

FRANCE'S TORIES look set to win a large majority in parliament after the second round of voting in the country's elections takes place this Sunday. In the first round of voting last Sunday the Tories led by the UPM coalition of France's president Jacques Chirac had around 44 percent of votes. Chirac managed to unite almost all of France's traditionally fractious Tory parties behind him.

The parties of the 'plural left', which have been in government for the last five years, got around 37 percent of votes. The Nazi National Front did not do as well as it had been hoping, with its 11 percent vote well down on what its leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, got in the recent presidential election. That vote produced massive demonstrations across the country.

The lower vote last Sunday is in part a result of those huge protests last month. However, the Nazis still have a worrying level of support.

Some commentators have sought to explain the success of the Tories by saying it is down to Chirac taking a 'tough' stance on crime and immigration. In fact the 'success' is not as great as it seems. The turnout last Sunday was the lowest ever in a parliamentary election in France, with just 64 percent of people voting.

Exit and opinion polls suggest that the abstention rate was especially high among those who have traditionally backed the parties of the 'plural left'. Those parties are the Socialist Party-equivalent to Britain's Labour Party-the Communist Party and the Greens. That many traditional supporters refused to vote for these parties reflects their dismal record in office.

But last Sunday the Socialist Party did secure a short term objective-to shore up its position against its rivals on the left. Socialist Party leaders played on the shock many felt at the National Front getting into the runoff in the presidential election. They argued that people must vote Socialist Party in the first round of the parliamentary elections to avoid similar dangers.

The Communist Party had its worst ever parliamentary election result, with less than 5 percent of votes-just half what it got in the last parliamentary election-while the Greens got just over 4 percent of votes. The far left was also hit by the Socialist Party's appeal for left wing voters to unite behind it, as well as by its own disunity.

Candidates of the Lutte Ouvriere and LCR far left organisations got just under 3 percent between them, much less than their candidates had got in the presidential elections. The task for the left now is to build the kind of united organisation that can tap the mood seen in the presidential vote and on the massive protests against Le Pen last month.

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Sat 15 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1804
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