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France to Hold 1st Round of Parliamentary Elections Sunday


France holds the first round of parliamentary elections on Sunday. The vote may show whether the defeat of Jean Marie LePen in last month's presidential elections has stopped the resurgence of the extreme right in France, and whether the left can make a comeback. President Jacques Chirac is calling for a parliament that he can work with.

France has spent five years in what is known as cohabitation - with different parties holding the presidency and the parliamentary majority. The result of the cohabitation, many analysts have said, has been years of political stagnation.

President Jacques Chirac, recently re-elected, is calling on voters to give him a rightist majority in the 577-seat National Assembly, one that will not have to make deals with the left, or the extreme right National Front of Jean-Marie LePen.

Polls indicate that a coalition of moderate right parties will get the most votes, but France's electoral system makes the results hard to predict.

There are more than 8,000 candidates and any candidate who gets more than 12.5 percent of the votes Sunday goes in to the second round on June 16. That means even in the next round many districts will have leftist, moderate and rightist candidates.

Some analysts have predicted that three-way races could produce a parliament with no clear majority, allowing the extreme right National Front to hold the balance of power.

Others think the moderate right's new policies - getting tougher on crime and on immigration, and cutting taxes - will satisfy some of those who voted for the National Front and produce the majority President Chirac is hoping for.

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