Historical victory for Jacques Chirac in French presidency elections

On Sunday 5 May, French citizens re-elected Jacques Chirac as their new President, in the second round of the elections. Mr Chirac (RPR) crushed the extreme-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen (Front National) by an overwhelming majority of 81,9 per cent of the votes (vs. 18,04 per cent for Mr Le Pen) – the highest score ever obtained by a candidate in France.

Policy impact of French elections / Impact des présidentielles

 

Commission President Romano Prodi congratulated Mr Chirac and stated that "the French people have once again demonstrated that their nation belongs to the heart of Europe."

In the past weeks, the media and public leaders had repeatedly called on the French to use their voting power in order to avoid the election of an extremist candidate. Large demonstrations against the Front National were held all over the country, gathering over a million people on the first of May. In the first round, abstentions had reached a historical high of 26 per cent of voters - in the second round, only 19,25 per cent did not go to the polls.

So far, Mr Chirac has not made any announcements on who will follow up Mr Jospin at the post of Prime Minister until the general elections in June. The latter had announced his resignation following his big defeat in the first round of the elections. The liberal senator Jean-Pierre Raffarin (DL), the gaullist deputy Nicolas Sarkozy (RPR) and François Fillon (RPR) have been tipped off as potential candidates.

The general elections will be the real test for France, as they may or may not confirm the rise of the extreme right, and decide on whether or not Mr Chirac will be faced with a second "cohabitation". The first polls predict that the Conservatives could obtain 37 per cent of votes but a majority of seats, versus 41 per cent for the Socialists and 16 per cent for the extreme right.

 

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