Conservative Paris Mayor is New French President
May. 07, 1995
PARIS (AP) _ Jacques Chirac, the conservative mayor of Paris, finally won France's presidency in his third attempt, defeating Lionel Jospin in a runoff Sunday to end 14 years of Socialist rule.
The right already controls 80 percent of the seats in parliament, and Chirac's victory gives conservatives their first chance since 1981 to exercise full control over foreign and domestic policy.
``I will be the president of all French people,'' Chirac declared in his victory speech. ``I know the difficulty of the task that awaits us.''
Jospin congratulated Chirac, wished him good luck and said his supporters had helped launch the troubled Socialist Party back on the road to recovery.
With about two-thirds of the votes counted, Chirac had 9,378,716 or 52.2 percent to 8,584,804 or 47.8 percent for Jospin.
Jospin had narrowed a large deficit in the polls in recent days, creating suspense in the battle to succeed Francois Mitterrand, France's longest-serving president.
The Socialist Mitterrand, 78 and ailing with prostate cancer, is expected to step down in about one week after 14 years in office.
Champagne corks popped in Chirac headquarters, and supporters erupted into a chorus of ``La Marseillaise,'' the national anthem, when the projections were flashed onto TV screens.
Alain Juppe, the foreign minister expected to become Chirac's prime minister, said the winner prevailed through ``courage and tenacity,'' after trailing badly just three months ago behind conservative Premier Edouard Balladur.
``Now we must keep a cool head and a spirit of tolerance,'' Juppe said. ``The French have chosen without ambiguity.''
The Jospin camp was disappointed but not surprise by the result, which was closer than predicted by the last authorized polls a week ago and a marked improvement over the debacles the Socialists suffered in recent parliamentary elections.
``We got back close to the people,'' said Martine Aubry, a former labor minister and Jospin aide. ``Now, we must continue.''
Jospin was the surprise winner in the first round over Chirac and Balladur, who split the conservative vote.
Chirac, mayor of Paris for 18 years and twice a prime minister, had lost in the first round in 1981 and was beaten by Mitterrand in the runoff in 1988.
A vigorous campaigner, Chirac, 62, held a big lead in the polls going into the April 23 first round, and his second-place finish stunned supporters. His 20.8 percent was the lowest first-round showing of any president elected under the current 30-year-old system.
Jospin, 57, a former education minister, polled 23.3 percent.
Both candidates promised solutions to France's 12.2 percent unemployment rate, the nation's biggest worry, but polls showed that neither fully won the hearts and minds of voters.
Blaming both mainstream parties _ the Socialists and Chirac's Rally for the Republic _ for France's recession, about 40 percent of voters picked fringe parties on the left and right in the first round.
Chirac's main antidote to the jobs problem is to cut the burdensome social security taxes that businesses pay for each employee.
Jospin proposed job-creating programs, a raise in the minimum wage and cutting the work week from 39 to 37 hours to spread jobs around.
Neither candidate was specific about how he would pay for the measures while the government struggles with a $60 billion deficit.