Rocard blames Mitterrand for troubles of left

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The Independent Online
MICHEL ROCARD, the most likely Socialist candidate for the next French presidential elections, has angered senior colleagues by saying that a near-certain Socialist defeat in elections next week reflected the voters' rejection of President Francois Mitterrand, writes Julian Nundy.

Mr Rocard, in an interview yesterday with the conservative Le Figaro, referred to comments he made earlier about the President's unpopularity, saying it was 'no doubt unjust but we have to take it into account. At the same time we have to take into account that the reproaches made to him are addressed to us too.'

Mr Rocard, Mr Mitterrand's prime minister from 1988 to 1991, last month called for 'a Big Bang' to re-constitute the left and seek alliances with the centre and ecologists. This has been seen as an attempt to establish that the era of President Mitterrand, now 76 and with two years of his term left to serve, is nearing its end and to put himself firmly in the forefront of the succession.

The tactic had seemed to be working, although Mr Rocard has been forced into a tough battle in his own parliamentary constituency north-west of Paris. Losing would not eliminate him from the presidential race but it would be a severe setback. His remarks about Mr Mitterrand, however, have annoyed several other Socialist leaders. Martine Aubry, the Labour Minister and daughter of Jacques Delors, the EC Commission President and the only other serious rival for the Socialist presidential candidature, said Mr Rocard's comments gave cause for concern 'about how the left will get back on track'. Henri Emmanuelli, the President of the outgoing National Assembly, said they had made him 'a little sad'.