Chirac 'digging own grave by ignoringelectorate': French press

14th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 14 (AFP) - France's ruling conservatives tried to put a brave face on EU election results Monday despite being trounced by the opposition Socialists amid widespread apathy and commentary that President Jacques Chirac was dealt yet another rebuff by voters.

 

PARIS, June 14 (AFP) - France's ruling conservatives tried to put a brave face on EU election results Monday despite being trounced by the opposition Socialists amid widespread apathy and commentary that President Jacques Chirac was dealt yet another rebuff by voters.

Newspapers quoted several ranking members of Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) emphasising that their party's score, 16.6 percent, was higher than the 12.8 percent registered in the last European polls in 1999.

But the headlines concentrated on the Socialist victory in Sunday's elections - and the low voter turnout.

"The PS (Socialist Party): the biggest party in France after those who stayed at home," the right-leaning Le Figaro titled its story.

The main opposition group won 28.9 percent of the ballots, against a record abstention rate of 57 percent, cementing its return to voter favour following March regional elections that saw it shunt aside the UMP to grab all but two of France's 26 regional assemblies.

Of the 78 European parliamentary seats allocated to France, the Socialists took 31. The UMP held 17 and its junior government partner, the centre-right Union for French Democracy (UDF), won 11.

Socialist leader Francois Hollande told France Inter radio Monday that Chirac "should listen to what the voters have to say".

He again called for the resignation of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, whose unpopular economic and labour market reforms were blamed for the UMP defeat.

Raffarin, ruling over a reshuffled government since the March vote, has kept a low profile since the elections.

Alain Juppe, the head of the UMP and a close Chirac aide who is fighting a corruption conviction, claimed that while his party was not happy with its showing, "the Socialist party did not succeed in its attempt to organise a new punishment vote".

The left-leaning Liberation daily begged to differ, though, saying "the UMP loses the return match" after the regional polls.

"Despite record abstention, the result of the ballots is irrefutable for the policies of (Prime Minister) Jean-Pierre Raffarin," it said.

The newspaper predicted Chirac would ignore the electorate's message, but that it would eventually come back to punish him when he stands for re-election in 2007.

"By taking no notice of any elections... the head of state is undermining the electoral act itself. Jacques Chirac is digging up the ground under his own feet - a politically tragic character, he remains his own gravedigger," it said.

The UMP's junior partner in government, the center-right Union for French Democracy (UDF), came in third place in the elections with 11.95 percent, although even that was not enough to give the UMP-UDF partnership a lead over the Socialists, especially when the latter counted their Greens allies.

The far-right National Front was fourth with 9.81 percent, up from 5.7 percent in 1999, giving a boost to its controversial leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and his eurosceptic policies.

The anti-European "sovereignist" right - which in a major upset in 1999 won second place with 13 percent of the vote - fell sharply. The Movement for France of Philippe de Villiers still won a little more than seven percent of the vote.

The Greens also lost ground, from 9.7 percent in 1999 to 7.3 percent this election. The Communists barely broke the five percent barrier needed to win seats, taking 5.2 percent, down from 6.8 percent.

© AFP

Subject: French news


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