National Front to gain seats in French parliament if electoral reform goes ahead

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The National Front could gain several seats in the French parliament if an electoral reform goes ahead which would make it easier for the centre-right to stay in government after 1998. The prospect of the extreme-right gaining ground has set the political dovecote aflutter, and worried MPs who are recalculating their likely majorities.

The plan came to light when the Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, confirmed a report that he was considering the reintroduction of some element of proportional representation in time for the 1998 elections, to "give a voice" to France's minority parties. While cynics suggested that the real reason was the centre-right's fear of being routed by the Socialists, another reason was also cited: the prospect that a close race between left and right in 1998 could leave a "hung" parliament in which the National Front held the balance of power.