Socialists count the cost: French elections have taken their toll of ministers and minority parties

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The Independent Online
MICHEL ROCARD, Roland Dumas, Lionel Jospin. The list of the 29 leading Socialists who were defeated in Sunday's parliamentary election reads like a roll-call of French government of the 1980s.

Fifteen of them were ministers in the outgoing Socialist government, Mr Dumas was the foreign minister; Michel Sapin, who did not even make it past the first round of voting on 21 March, was the finance minister. Other ministers, such as Pierre Joxe, the defence minister until he was named to oversee public spending a few weeks ago, had decided not to stand again.

The defeat of Mr Rocard, the prime minister from 1988 to 1991, was the most ominous for the Socialist Party. Still considered the leading Socialist candidate for the next presidential elections in 1995, his fall was proof that celebrity - he is frequently cited by pollsters as the most popular Socialist leader - was no protection from voters' disillusionment.

Mr Dumas lost his Dordogne seat in the wave of discontent that lost the Socialists 200 National Assembly deputies but also because his ministerial duties caused him to neglect his constituency. When he did pay attention, his solicitude often appeared cack-handed.

One initiative was to announce the opening of a museum to display all the gifts offered to him in his ministerial capacity. A remark to a recent meeting that conservatives from the department were 'little fascist larvae' is said to have shocked even local Communists.

Mr Jospin, a former education minister and first secretary of the Socialist Party for President Francois Mitterrand's first term, from 1981 to 1988, was one of the party's leading figures as it progressed through the 1970s and dominated government in the following decade.

Another ex-minister who lost his seat, by 54.9 per cent to 45.1, was Edmond Herve, health minister in 1985, when unheated and potentially fatal blood products were distributed to haemophiliacs although heated substances, known to be cleansed of the HIV virus, were available. Mr Herve is one of the main targets for trial after a case in which two senior doctors have already been sentenced to jail terms.

A serving minister who went down by a much smaller margin was Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the industry minister, who fought a difficult campaign in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles. The victor, Pierre Lellouche of the Gaullist RPR, took the seat by 51.24 per cent to 48.76.

Mr Lellouche, 41, is an academic and a co-founder of the French Institute for International Relations. An expert on disarmament, he is the international-affairs adviser to Jacques Chirac and is tipped to be the next junior defence minister.

He is among the new members to watch in the first months of the new legislature. Others include Jean-Bernard Raimond, a diplomat who was chosen as foreign minister during the 1986-88 cohabitation to run a field in which President Mitterrand was then predominant.

Another Gaullist who is returning to parliament after being defeated in 1988 is Michel Hannoun. In the 1986-88 parliament, he wrote a keynote report on immigration which angered many on the party's right wing for its moderation.