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La France pour tous?—The French Presidential Elections of 23 April and 7 May 1995

  • Alistair Cole


JACQUES CHIRAC WAS ELECTED FIFTH PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH Fifth Republic on 7 May 1995. After 21 years, a politician claiming the Gaullist mantle is once again the occupant of the Elysée Palace. The spontaneous demonstration of countless thousands of Chirac supporters in the Place de la Concorde on the evening of the 7 May was sweet revenge for a candidate who had previously failed on two occasions to secure election, in 1981 and 1988 against the Socialist François Mitterrand. Like the former President, Chirac was elected on his third attempt. Like Mitterrand, President Chirac possesses the necessary presidential attributes of perseverance in adversity, a willingness to learn from past mistakes, and the support of a powerful political party.



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1 Péan’s, Pierre, Unejeunessefrançaise: François Mitterrand 1934–1947, Paris, Fayard, 1994, cast new light on Mitterrand’s wartime activities and personal networks that even sympathetic supporters found distasteful.

2 The French literature on Mitterrand is so abundant as to excuse any attempt at repetition here. In English, see Friend, J. W., Seven Years in France: François Mitterrand and the Unintended Revolution, Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1989; Northcutt, W., Mitterrand: A Political Biography, New York, Holmes & Meier, 1992 and Cole, A., François Mitterrand: A Study in Political Leadership, London, Routledge, 1994.

3 See Knapp, A., Gaullism since de Gaulle, Aldershot, Dartmouth, 1994.

4 Le Monde, 13 April 1995. OFCE = Office Française de Ut Conjoncture économique, a Paris-based research team.

5 L’Express, ‘Spécial Elysée 1995’, 24 April 1995.

6 The rules were complex. Candidates polling under 5% received up to FF 7.2M reimbursement from state funds (Cheminade, Voynet and de Villiers). Candidates polling more than 5% (Jospin, Chirac, Balladur, Le Pen, Hue and Laguiller) were rebursed upto FF 32.4M. The second ballot candidates were reimbursed to the figure of FF 43.2M, their expenditure limited to FF 90M.

7 Dupin, E., ‘Sondages: secrets de campagne’, Libération, 26 05 1995; ‘Pourquoi les sondages se sont trompées’, Libération, 2728 05 1995.

8 For consistency of comparison, the Le Monde/UVA figures are those here referred to. We should note that comparisons with Libération/IFOP lead to some discrepancies. The BV\ figures are reprinted in Le Monde Dossiers et Documents, L’Election présidentielle: 23 avril, 7 mai 1995 (Paris, Le Monde, 1995). The IFOP figures are given in Libération 25 April 1995 and 9 May 1995.

9 Libération/WOV exit poll, in Libération 25 April 1995. Thirty per cent of first-round Jospin voters were motivated primarily by the fear of the Left being absent from the second round; with 50% declaring their motivation as being that of electing their candidate to the presidency. The ‘presidential’ vote for Jospin (50%) was less than for Balladur (65%) or Chirac (73%).

10 The 1993 figure is from Libération/IFOP. According to Le Monde/BVA, Balladur was supported by only 12% of the 18–24 cohort (28% for Chirac); and by 10% of students (28% for Chirac).

11 Chirac won the support of young men in particular. He obtained 28% of the 18–34 cohorts amongst men; 20% amongst women. The core of the electorate remained conservative: farmers (29%), small business (28%) professions and higher management (24%).

12 Those départements where Jospin was ahead: Aisne, Allier, Ardennes, Ariège, Aude, Charente, Côtes d’Armor, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Gironde, Indre, Isère, Landes, Lot, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Nièvre, Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Hautes-Pyrénées, Sarthe, Seine-Maritime, Seine-St-Denis, Somme, Tarn, Haute-Vienne and Territoire de Belfort.

13 For instance: Jacques Toubon (RPR) at Justice, Alain Madelin (UDF) at Economy and Finances, Bernard Pons (RPR) in charge of Planning (Aménagement du teritoiré), Jean-Louis Debré (RPR) as Interior Minister.

14 Libération, 19 May 1995. There were 21 RPR, against 17 UDF. The real losers were — predictably — those UDF politicians most active in their support of Balladur. Only 5 Balladuriens escaped unscathed: François Bayrou (Education); Jacques Barrot (Work) Philippe Douste-Blazy (Culture), Jean Arthuis (Economic Development and Planning) and François Fillon (Technology, Information, the Postal service).

15 Libération, 18 May 1995.

16 See Cole, A., ‘The Presidential Party and the Fifth Republic’, West European Policies, Vol. 16, No. 2, 04 1993 for further discussion of these themes.

17 It is worth noting that 65% of those voting No in the Maastricht referendum (of those who turned out for the second ballot on 7 May) supported Chirac on the second round, as against 35% for Jospin.

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Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
  • URL: /core/journals/government-and-opposition
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