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Chirac triumph is a vote against right-wing extremism

Jacques Chirac may have triumphed in the French presidential election, but the Swiss press say his victory was a "no" to right-wing extremism.

Chirac’s record score of 82 per cent of the vote had nothing to do with popularity, according to Bern’s “Bund” newspaper: “France did not hold a presidential election, but rather a plebiscite against rightwing extremism,” read its editorial.

The “Berner Zeitung” concurred, stating that Chirac’s win “was a popular verdict against the far-right and its leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen”. Zurich’s “Tages Anzeiger” went further, saying the vote was foremost a no to the Le Pen “demon”.

The Swiss media say Sunday’s vote has not papered over profound divisions within French society. The “Basler Zeitung” points out that not all Le Pen voters are fascists, but rather that many of these people are expressing a sense of unease “about a society with real problems”.

In the German-language tabloid “Blick” the Swiss-French journalist Jacques Pilet writes that if the “government parties refuse to take voters’ preoccupations more seriously, more drama can be expected”.

Parliamentary elections

Chirac is facing “huge responsibilities”, according to the “Tribune de Genève”, which points out that his job will be even more difficult given the upcoming parliamentary elections (in June).

The Tribune says Le Pen’s party could be a “considerable nuisance” for the French right, and could hand power to the left in a three-way contest.

The Berner Zeitung goes even further, saying the French president’s influence has in fact been weakened. Swiss political commentators expect too that the political status quo will continue.

“The worst thing that could happen to France is to go back to its political cohabitation,” said Le Temps. The editorialist added that the Gaullist Chirac now has to translate his landslide election into a solid parliamentary majority.

The parliamentary vote will also give a real indication of where France’s political power lies according to the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”. If the French president fails to gain the majority, then a real crisis looms for the Fifth Republic said the Bund.

“The creation of a parliamentary system with a strong prime minister and a weak president could become a reality,” wrote the editorialist.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR