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Voters hail Chirac victory

French voters cheered the defeat of the far-right


French voters living in Switzerland breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday as Jacques Chirac was re-elected president, crushing the far-right candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

"Of course, I'm extremely pleased with the result," said Thérèse Espinet, the representative for Chirac's Rally for the Republic Party (RPR) in Switzerland.

"Around midday on Sunday, there was a queue of people 50 metres long in front of the [French] consulate in Geneva waiting to vote."

Not only did Chirac win 89.6 per cent of the votes cast in Switzerland - higher than the 81.5 per cent the president received in France - but voter turnout was also higher, up from 42 per cent in the first round to 50.6 per cent.

Claudine Schmid, who lives in Geneva and is a delegate of the Council for French Abroad (CSFE), also backed Chirac to banish memories of Le Pen's shock first round success.

A fortnight ago, the far-right candidate ousted socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the first round vote in what was regarded as the biggest upset in French electoral history.

"I hope the French people will reaffirm today's vote in next month's parliamentary elections and give Jacques Chirac a majority with which to govern," said Schmid.

Defeat for Le Pen

Pierre Oliviero, another CSFE delegate, was also delighted by Chirac's win. "I'm very happy. I was extremely worried that Jean-Marie Le Pen would win too many votes," he said.

Le Pen only secured 10.7 per cent of the votes cast in Switzerland - ten per cent less than in France. However, his supporters in Switzerland refused to see their leader's landslide defeat as a setback.

"Quite the opposite," said Geneva lawyer Olivier Wyssa, a regional councillor for the National Front in Rhônes-Alpes. "Despite a hysterical campaign, the National Front has gained votes. It's proof that we are taking root in France."

Wyssa, who holds both Swiss and French citizenship, will be standing in Ain in next month's parliamentary elections in France.

swissinfo/Ian Hamel

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