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Huge Voter Turnout Results in Chirac Landslide - 2002-05-05

French President Jacques Chirac has won another term in a landslide. He defeated the extreme-right National Front leader Jean-Marie LePen by winning about 82 percent of the vote to Mr. LePen's just under 18 percent. It was a repudiation of Mr. LePen, who got into Sunday's election by beating Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in voting two weeks ago.

Even the first projections made it clear that Mr. Chirac had won an overwhelming victory. More people cast their ballots than in the first round two weeks ago. The voter turnout was close to 80 percent this time, up from 72 percent. And the new voters apparently overwhelmingly voted against Jean Marie LePen, if not actively for Mr. Chirac.

French left political supporters dislike the president but they like Mr. LePen even more. The left, without a candidate for the second round, put their energies into daily anti-LePen demonstrations in the streets of France between the two rounds of voting.

President Chirac framed the race less as one of candidates and more as democracy versus fascism. And as Mr. Chirac's supporters hoped, the left converted their protests into votes against the extreme right.

In the end Mr. LePen received more votes than he did in the first round, but the total was less than he and another extreme right candidate tallied two weeks ago. That could indicate that some of his initial support was a protest vote against the ruling Gaullist president and Socialist dominated parliament. Or it might reflect the extent to which the French were ashamed that an extreme right candidate could do so well in their country.

Mr. LePen quickly conceded defeat but promised his party would be back in force for next month's parliamentary elections. President Chirac promised that in his second term he would be President of all segments of France and would work to improve law and order and other issues exploited by Mr. LePen to such surprising effect.