A Letter From Paris; The French Left after the Presidential Election

A Letter From Paris; The French Left after the Presidential Election

American friends have asked me about the current political situation in France: Who is this Jacques Chirac, a politician from the right, who was just elected president after having run a more or less leftist campaign? Who is Lionel Jospin, who saved the honor of the Socialist party, the collapse of which everyone had predicted? And why, with all this, did a party of the extreme right win a solid 15 percent of the vote and take control of three cities in the municipal elections one month later?

Last winter, after Jacques Delors had declined to run in the presidential race, the left had practically disappeared from the political landscape. The political watchdogs had their eyes trained only on the right, predicting a runoff between Chirac and Edouard Balladur, with the left eliminated after the first ballot. Chirac maintained that the election was not a contest between the left and right, but one that pitted those (like Delors and Balladur) who had bowed to the economic dictates of the European community and the world market against Chirac himself, advocate of a return to politics and of a new emphasis on the fight against unemployment and fracture sociale (social disintegration).

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Lima