French Elections, 1973

February 14, 1973

Report Outline
Resurgence of the Political Left
Controversial Nature of Gaullism
New Directions for the Fifth Republic
Special Focus

Resurgence of the Political Left

Sagging Popularity of Gaullists Prior to Elections

France once again is in a state of political uncertainty. For the first time in 15 years there is a conceivable alternative to a Gaullist government. The French parliamentary elections, a “primary” March 4 and a run-off March 11, are the first such electoral contests to be held since Charles de Gaulle stepped down as president in 1969. The Gaullists and their allies are torn by dissension and plagued by disclosures of scandals in high places. The opposition, led by a coalition of Communists and Socialists, has been chanting that it's time for a change. To judge from a steady succession of public opinion polls, France could be heading for a leftist government and a consequent constitutional crisis. While many commentators doubt that this will actually happen, the Gaullists are running scared.

The Gaullists were shocked last December when the respected Sofres poll indicated that the Union of the Left was being endorsed by 45 per cent of those interviewed—a figure that held steady from then until early February when it rose a percentage point. In the same period the Gaullists lost seven percentage points, down to 38 per cent, while a “third force” of centrist reformers held steady at 14 per cent and extremists on the right edged up to about 3 per cent. Another poll, published in the conservative newspaper &Lcar;Aurore to coincide with the official opening of the campaign on Feb. 12, indicated a slight further gain in the left's popularity at the Gaullists’ expense.

Le Figaro, a Parisian daily which usually tries not to upset its solid, middle-class readership, said in a recent editorial that “the position of the majority continues to deteriorate while that of the left-of-center opposition gathers strength.” In an in-depth study of the state of the nation, two Figaro journalists who had spent four months visiting every part of France, concluded that the voters had become distrustful of their elected representatives and of the entrenched position of the Gaullists.

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