Tags: France | Heaves | Sigh | Relief

France Heaves Sigh of Relief

Sunday, 05 May 2002 12:00 AM

After the first electorate round April 21 when the National Front's Le Pen nosed Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin out of the race by less than 1 percent -- thus guaranteeing himself a place in the second and final round -- France lived for two weeks in political incertitude.

Not since the student uprising of May 1968 has France suffered such nail-biting days, with the remote -- but nevertheless present -- possibility of the extreme right winning the race to the Elysée Palace, and the left relegated to the sidelines.

Chirac's huge victory margin, however, was more a vote against Le Pen, than a vote of confidence for the Gaulist leader. The left was faced with little choice but to support Chirac.

"This was the election of all paradoxes," said Nicolas Sarkozy, a former minister and a close ally of Chirac.

"We have just lived a time of serious worry for the nation," said Chirac, appearing on national television moments after his victory was confirmed. "France has reclaimed its attachment to Republican values."

Acknowledging his defeat moments after the closure of voting stations at 8 p.m., Le Pen said Chirac and the government used "Soviet methods" to ensure their success in the second electoral round.

He went on to accuse his opponents of lying, cheating and carrying out "a hysterical campaign, orchestrated by the entire power in place."

Le Pen berated Chirac for refusing to debate him prior to the second round, and of "drafting school children to demonstrate against him.

"We look at the future with success," said Le Pen. "We look forward to the legislative elections," said the National Front leader. France is to hold legislative elections next June.

"The alliance of circumstances will not fool the people for long," said Le Pen.

Meanwhile, Le Pen's effigy was burned in the Place de la Bastille, where a party atmosphere prevailed as people danced in the streets, waved tri-color flags and celebrated Le Pen's defeat.

In the nearby Place de la République, music bands performed as large numbers of immigrants, or children of immigrants, celebrated their victory under a light drizzle.

Of course, Chirac's victory may be short-lived. The new president might only enjoy his overwhelming majority until June, when France goes back to the electoral drawing board.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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After the first electorate round April 21 when the National Front's Le Pen nosed Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin out of the race by less than 1 percent -- thus guaranteeing himself a place in the second and final round -- France lived for two weeks in political...
France,Heaves,Sigh,Relief
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2002-00-05
Sunday, 05 May 2002 12:00 AM
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