Landslide for right buries Mitterrand: Rocard and Dumas out as conservatives win biggest poll victory of Fifth Republic

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The Independent Online
FRANCE'S conservatives took a staggering 480 of the 577 National Assembly seats in the final round of parliamentary elections yesterday. President Francois Mitterrand will ask the alliance of the Gaullist RPR and the centre-right Union for French Democracy (UDF) this week to form the next government.

With results in from all but eight constituencies at midnight, the conservatives already had 480 seats and stood to take more.

The result was the most humiliating blow to Mr Mitterrand since he was first elected President nearly 12 years ago. His Socialist Party was devastated, taking only 66 seats, down from 272 in the last parliament. An opinion poll for the state France 2 television channel said 55 per cent of its sample wanted Mr Mitterrand to step down. He has repeatedly said he intends to remain at the Elysee Palace until his mandate ends in May 1995.

Michel Rocard, the former prime minister and the favourite Socialist candidate to succeed Mr Mitterrand, lost his seat in the Paris suburbs, a setback which could well dash his presidential hopes. Roland Dumas, the Foreign Minister, lost his Dordogne seat.

Inside the new majority, the RPR was ahead of the UDF, taking 245 seats to 213. In most constituencies, the two groups had fielded joint candidates. Another 22 seats were taken by independent conservatives who will support the coalition. Eighty seats were already attributed to the right in the first round of voting on 21 March where candidates gained an outright victory.

Representing 82 per cent of the seats in the lower house, the majority is the biggest enjoyed by any government in the 35 years of the Fifth Republic. On the fringes, the Communist Party had 23 seats, while the far- right National Front and the ecologists took none.

The RPR score virtually ensures that the new prime minister will be a Gaullist, almost certainly Edouard Balladur, who was Finance Minister the last time the right governed under the Socialist President in 1986-88.

Jacques Chirac, the RPR leader, who was Prime Minister then, will stay out of the new government to prepare his own campaign for the presidency. Mr Chirac promised the next prime minister his full support, and warned that economic recovery 'will take time and will need the unity of all the French'.

Both Mr Chirac and Francois Leotard, a leader of the UDF, spoke of the need for 'tolerance', an apparent call not to destabilise Mr Mitterrand.

Mr Rocard was the most prominent Socialist to lose his seat. The defeat of 14 other Socialist ministers or former ministers was announced during the count. They included Lionel Jospin, a former party first secretary and Education Minister. Those who kept seats included Pierre Beregovoy, the outgoing Prime Minister. Laurent Fabius, the current party leader, and Bernard Tapie, the entrepreneur and Minister for Towns.

There was a setback for the RPR in Lyons, where the Gaullists failed to unseat Michel Noir, the city's mayor, who left the RPR two years ago.

----------------------------------------------------------------- NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SEATS (PROJECTED) ----------------------------------------------------------------- RPR (Gaullists) . . . . . . . . . . 245 UDF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213 Socialists . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 Independent conservatives . . . . . .22 Communists . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 -----------------------------------------------------------------

Hard bargaining, page 12

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