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France Holds Second Round of Legislative Elections - 2002-06-16

French voters cast their ballots Sunday in the second round of legislative elections. The vote is expected to hand conservatives an absolute majority in parliament, and French President Jacques Chirac a solid mandate to govern.

Analysts expect few surprises in this second round of parliamentary elections. More than 1,000 candidates are competing in the run-off vote. But polls, leading up to the vote, indicated that the center-right Union for the Presidential Majority, backing President Jacques Chirac, may win up to 400 of the 577 seats in the French National Assembly.

What is still unclear is how the other parties will fare. That includes the far-right National Front Party, which scored less than 12 percent of the votes last week. It also includes the left, which has registered heavy losses in both the presidential and first round of legislative elections. A leftist coalition swept the last parliamentary elections, in 1997.

How many voters will flock to the polls on this warm, summery day is also uncertain. A record 36 percent of French abstained from voting last week.

Nicole Juteau, a retiree from Paris, said she was out- of-town last week. But this time, Mrs. Juteau said she would be voting - for the Right. Mrs. Juteau said she hoped Mr. Chirac, who was reelected last month, would have a conservative majority to push through his mandate over the next five years. Mr. Chirac spent much of his first term at odds with a leftist prime minister and parliament.

But another Paris resident, Didier Versavel, said he would vote for a local Green Party candidate. Mr. Versavel said that even if Mr. Chirac's center-right coalition wins the election, it is important to have a leftist counterforce in parliament.

Polls close at 8:00 PM local time, and results are expected to be announced shortly after.