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France Holds First Round of Parliamentary Elections - 2002-06-09


In parliamentary elections in France, preliminary results and exit polls indicate that President Jacques Chirac's rightist coalition will win control of the National Assembly. The number of seats any party wins will not be known until a run-off round next weekend, but the Chirac alliance appears set to easily defeat both the Socialists and the extreme right.

The Union for a Parliamentary Majority, the coalition supporting President Jacques Chirac, has apparently won the most votes in the first round of the elections, and projections indicate the moderate right could win more than 400 of the National Assembly's 577 seats.

President Chirac had called for a majority he could work with and an end to Socialist control of the Parliament. Many voters blamed what's called cohabitation, a rightist President and a leftist Parliament, for the political stagnation of recent years.

Voter dissatisfaction also led to a record low turnout in this election. But unlike the presidential elections in May, when low turnout helped the extreme right candidate Jean Marie LePen finish a surprising second, it appeared that it was the voters from the extreme right and left who stayed home this time.

Mr. Le Pen's extreme right National Front is now projected to win no more than 4 seats. The Socialists, who had held the most seats, are expected to drop to between 140 and 190.

Jean Pierre Raffarin, who will keep his job as prime minister if the right gets the majority, called for more voters to turn out next Sunday. He also said that President Chirac's campaign promises to fight crime and cut taxes will be implemented by the new Parliament.