Rocard urges left to unite for Elysee

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MICHEL ROCARD, the French Socialist leader who is seeking to revive a flagging campaign, which threatens to dash his presidential ambitions, appealed to other left- wing parties to unite before the next elections to the Elysee Palace in 11 months time.

Mr Rocard, who is leading his party's ticket for Sunday's European Parliament elections, made the call for 'a new alliance' at his main campaign rally in Paris on Tuesday. Reactions from the rest of the left were cool. Last year Mr Rocard called for a 'big bang' to galvanise the left.

Jean-Francois Hory, of the left- wing Radicals, said: 'Two big bangs for just one man, isn't that a bit much?'

For the Communists, Francis Wurtz, who heads his party's European election list, said: 'If it is just a matter of going back to the past and cobbling together lame compromises, it's been done and it was a failure.'

Opinion polls are banned in France in the last week of a campaign, but one of the last to appear gave Mr Rocard 18.5 per cent of the vote, compared with 29.5 per cent for the governing centre-right coalition list. Although no formal minimum has been set, Mr Rocard is thought to need 20 per cent to be assured of his party's candidature in the presidential elections.

Apart from Mr Rocard's list, other left-wing lists expected to gain seats in the Strasbourg assembly next Sunday are the Communists, tipped to get 6 per cent, and the Radicals, led by Bernard Tapie, with 9.5 per cent. The French European elections are seen mainly as a test of public opinion before the two-round presidential poll, which was set this week for 23 April and 7 May.

'There can only be a renaissance of hope in a left which has been brought together,' Mr Rocard said. He said he would take charge of a new effort to form a left-wing alliance himself, after the elections next week.