- Title: FRANCE: REGIONAL ELECTIONS.
- Date: 15th March 1998
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (MARCH 15, 1998) (RTV-ACCESS ALL) 1. GV/MV/CU: PEOPLE VOTING/ OFFICIALS (8 SHOTS) 0.50 2. GV/MV/CU: HEAD OF THE UNIFIED RIGHT LIST IN THE PARIS REGION, FORMER PRIME MINISTER EDUARD BALLADUR, VOTING (5 SHOTS) 1.42 SARCELLES, FRANCE (MARCH 15, 1998) (RTV - ACCESS ALL) 3. GV/PAN: VOTERS 1.48 4. GV/MV/CU/SCU: FINANCE MINISTER DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN, WHO MANAGED THE UNIFIED LEFT CAMPAIGN IN THE PARIS REGION (5 SHOTS) 2.49 Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
- Reuters ID: LVACFWRF8BOCYVP46P3PBHG0T7FU
- Location: PARIS AND SARCELLES, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Duration: 00:02:50
- Story Text: Voting has started in French regional elections with more than 15,000 candidates contesting a total of 1,880 council seats.
The French turned out in low numbers on Sunday (March 15) at the start of regional elections widely expected to strengthen the position of both Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's Socialists and the far-right National Front.
If the results follow opinion poll predictions, centre-right groups like President Jacques Chirac's Gaullists, which now control most regions, will be squeezed between the left and the far right.
As many as 20 of the 22 regions in France have been run by right-wing majorities, either the Gaullist RPR (Rally for the Republic) or the centre-right UDF (French Democratic Union) since 1992.
One of the most important seats is the Ile de France region around Paris, which has been run by the right for the past 26 years.The Ile de France campaign has been run by former Prime Minister Eduard Balladur on the right and Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn on the left.
Most opinion polls indicated the left was headed for a big victory, strengthening the hand of Jospin, his party's likely candidate at the 2002 presidential election.
The Interior Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, reported that a bit over 17 percent of the electorate voted during the morning, more than two percentage points below the midday figure at the last regional election in 1992.
A left-wing victory would deal a second heavy blow to the opposition centre-right following its upset defeat in parliamentary elections last June at the hands of the now-ruling coalition of Socialists, Communists and Greens.
The left has portrayed the regional vote as a referendum on Jospin's rule while the opposition insists it reflects only local concerns.
French regional councils have limited authority.They oversee regional planning and hand out and administer state subsidies in education, transport, housing, training and environmental protection.But they provide national politicians with crucial local power bases that are particularly important for the parliamentary opposition.
A big victory for the left would be widely viewed as a strong endorsement of Jospin's moves toward European monetary union.
A high abstention rate would hurt the centre-right most as surveys have found conservative voters the least interested in participating.
Six years ago the combined mainstream centre-right won 33 percent of the vote to 14 percent for the far-right National Front, 26.3 percent for the combined Left and 6.8 percent for the Greens.This year, the Greens are for the most part running on slates of combined left.
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