French Socialists trounceruling right in Euro poll

14th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 13 (AFP) - France's opposition Socialist party (PS) romped to victory in European elections Sunday with nearly 30 percent of the vote, well ahead of President Jacques Chirac's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), according to interior ministry estimates.

PARIS, June 13 (AFP) - France's opposition Socialist party (PS) romped to victory in European elections Sunday with nearly 30 percent of the vote, well ahead of President Jacques Chirac's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), according to interior ministry estimates.

With more than 80 percent of the votes counted, the PS had 29.18 percent, the UMP 16.6 percent and the Union for French Democracy (UDF) -- the UMP's junior partner in government -- 11.88 percent.

The far-right National Front (FN) won 9.92 percent, a big gain on 1999, when the party was suffering the aftermath of a bitter split and got 5.7 percent, and the Greens 7.38 percent.

Turn-out was 42.64 percent.- down from 47 percent in 1999.

Projections made by the CSA polling institute gave 33 of France's 78 seats in the new European parliament to the PS, 17 to the UMP, 11 to the UDF and six to the FN.

In general the 1999 vote - which took place during a period of "cohabitation" between a centre-right president and a socialist government - saw a surge of support for minority parties. These suffered in Sunday's election, as voters returned to the mainstream - including the far-right.

The anti-European "sovereignist" right - which in a major upset in 1999 won second place with 13 percent of the vote - fell sharply, but the Movement for France of Philippe de Villiers still won around 7.5 percent, which could give him five seats, according to the exit polls.

The Greens also lost ground, from 9.7 percent in 1999. And the Communists, who currently have six seats, looked set to lose four of them, according to the polls.

Another surprise winner in the 1999 vote - the hunt lobby party Hunting Fishing Nature Tradition - looked set to lose its six seats, and the vote for the Trotskyist far-left also fell sharply. Its five seats were likely to disappear.

France had 87 seats in the last parliament elected before the European Union expanded from 15 to 25 members on May 1.

For Chirac it was the second blow in two months after his party's drubbing by the PS in regional elections in March. However the combined 28 percent for the UMP and UDF was six points ahead of their score in 1999, and the government argued that the worst had been avoided.

"We stood up well. There was no second punishment vote," said UMP deputy secretary-general Francois Baroin.

"To hear what was said after the regionals, you would have thought we were on a slippery slide heading for the sand-pit. That was not the case. We made gains on 1999 and so did the UDF," he said.

The Socialists seized on the results - their best ever at European elections - to argue that two years after they were routed in presidential and parliamentary elections they are once again established as a viable alternative government.

First secretary Francois Hollande called on Chirac to sack Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, whose policies of economic reform he said had lost the confidence of the French public.

"Right now - and the sooner the better - the president must assume his responsibilities. He cannot always pass off the vote of the French as being without consequence," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French news


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