Leading Article: Victory for an uneasy alliance

Share
Related Topics
THE defeat of France's governing Socialist Party, long predicted, was clinched by yesterday's first-round election results. The Socialists have been as comprehensively thrashed as expected. The poor showing of the Ecologists is the sole surprise. President Mitterrand's party had been hopelessly compromised by its association with rising unemployment, expected shortly to top three million, and with numerous allegations of corruption. But Mr Mitterrand is expected to soldier on for the remaining two years of his term, thus inaugurating France's second bout of 'cohabitation' between a president of the left and a government of the right.

Clear-cut though the first-round results seem to be, the French are not to be envied for having so spectacularly thrown out an unpopular government. The precise strength of the two parties of the victorious coalition, the neo-Gaullist RPR led by Jacques Chirac and Valery Giscard d'Estaing's more centrist UDF - and with it the identity of the next prime minister and cabinet - will not be known until after the second round next Sunday. One thing is certain, however: the tedious rivalry between Mr Chirac, prime minister in the previous spell of cohabitation in 1986-88, and the former President Giscard d'Estaing, and their respective coalition parties will continue.

President Mitterrand exploited it effectively to win a second term as president in 1988. Wily player that he is, he will not be slow to do so again. Both party leaders have their eyes on the presidential election of 1995. So do younger men within their parties. The electorate, already fed up with their manoeuvrings might yet express its disgust by voting for a centre-left president: that at any rate is the calculation of Michel Rocard, the former Socialist prime minister who last week called for a new 'big bang' coalition of Socialists, ecologists and reform-minded communists.

Meanwhile both the RPR and the UDF will try to pass to each other, or back to President Mitterrand and the previous government, the odium associated with a gathering recession. This is not likely either to be as deep or to cause as much personal trauma as Britain's, not least because mortgages are rarer and mainly on fixed interest rates. But with unemployment already nudging three million and agriculture destined to shed many thousands more jobs, social tensions could rise again. This vulnerability threatens to make France an uncomfortable partner within the European Community. If Britain's economic recovery gathers pace, and if John Major succeeds in bringing his own anti-Maastricht rebels to heel, the new French government might find itself less prone to patronise this country than during the election campaign.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobThe successful ...

Business Analyst (Systems/ Incident Analyst)

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Business Analyst r...

SAP GRC Architect / Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently looking for a PERMANENT S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Believe me, I said, there’s nothing rural about this urban borough’s attempt at a country fair

John Walsh
Tony and Cherie Blair on the day he was elected  

The intensity of the adulation for Blair ought to concern Labour’s ‘new’ man

Steve Richards
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor