Parliamentary Chamber: Assemblée nationale


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  Assemblée nationale

Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  25 May 1997
1 June 1997

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the seats in the National Assembly following the premature dissolution of this body on 22 April 1997. Previous general elections had been held in March 1993.

Background and outcome of elections:

  Mr. Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic since 1995, decided on 21 April 1997 to dissolve the National Assembly prematurely, one year in advance of the normal date, despite the fact that the right-wing parties held a comfortable majority of some four-fifths of the seats. This decision grew out of three concerns: finding again a "revitalised" majority with a view to pursuing and broadening the reforms undertaken by successive governments of the right since 1993 (Balladur government, followed by the Juppé government), place France in a strong position to meet the major European Union targets, in particular the introduction of a single currency and, lastly, erode the backing of the far-right National Front. The President felt that the time was ripe to hold new legislative elections, the dates of which were set for 15 May for the first round and 1 June for the second. The opposition, which was taken by surprise, prepared for the elections under the leadership of Mr. Lionel Jospin, First Secretary of the Socialist Party (PS) and a prior unsuccessful candidate in the presidential elections. The right's campaign was led by Prime Minister Alain Juppé (RPR - Rally for the Republic). It expected to lose some seats but to hold on to its majority for a new, five-year legislature. Campaign issues focused on the country's economy and European co-operation, both eliciting sharply divided views.

More than 6,300 candidates stood for election in the first round, i.e. some 20 % more than in 1993. The results were surprising: an abstention rate of 32 %, 5 % blank or invalid ballots, only 12 seats won outright, with a second ballot required for 565 seats. The parties of the moderate right had an uphill battle in many electoral districts where the National Front, which polled nearly 15 % of the votes, was in a position to hold its own in the second round and to decide the final vote between candidates of the left and right. Immediately following the first round, Prime Minister Juppé, who had a low popularity rating, announced that he would resign his post regardless of the final outcome of the election.

Notwithstanding a higher turnout, the second round results favoured the left, which won 320 seats altogether. The Socialist Party (246 seats) did not obtain an absolute majority (289 seats) in the new Assembly but relied on the support of its allies: 37 Communists, 13 Radical Socialists, 16 various left and eight Greens who entered the National Assembly for the first time. The National Front, instrumental in defeating candidates from the moderate right, won only a single seat. The RPR and its ally the Union for French Democracy (UDF), which together lost over 200 seats, had a total of 256 seats with the "various right".

Taking heed of these results, President Chirac called on Mr. Jospin to form the government, which was appointed on 4 June and included Communist and Green Ministers. France has thus entered a third period of "cohabitation", this time between a rightist President and a leftist Government.

When it was convened on 12 June, the National Assembly elected as its President Mr. Laurent Fabius (PS), former Prime Minister under President François Mitterand and who had already presided over the Assembly from 1988 to 1992.

Round no 1 (25 May 1997): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 39,217,241
Voters 26,635,942 (67.9%)
Blank or invalid ballot papers 1,301,456
Valid votes 25,334,486
Round no 2 (1 June 1997): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 37,626,821
Voters 26,886,073 (71.4%)
Blank or invalid ballot papers 1,696,446
Valid votes 25,189,627

Round no 1: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Votes %
Socialist Party (PS) 5,961,612 23.53
Rally for the Republic (RPR) 3,977,964 15.70
Union for French Democracy (UDF) 3,601,279 14.22
Communist Party (PC) 2,519,281 9.94
Various Left 708,605 2.80
Socialist Radical Party 366,067 1.45
Greens 1,726,018 6.81
Various Right 1,671,626 6.60
National Front (FN) 3,785,383 14.94
Extreme Left 638,710 2.52
Extreme Right 26,438 0.10
Miscellaneous 351,503 1.39
Round no 2: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Votes %
Socialist Party (PS) 9,721,881 38.6
Rally for the Republic (RPR) 5,714,492 22.7
Union for French Democracy (UDF) 5,284,203 21
Communist Party (PC) 921,716 3.7
Various Left 543,789 2.1
Socialist Radical Party 558,959 2.2
Greens 414,871 1.6
Various Right 594,862 2.4
National Front (FN) 1,434,854 5.7
Extreme Left - -
Extreme Right - -
Miscellaneous - -

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total
Socialist Party (PS) 246
Rally for the Republic (RPR) 139
Union for French Democracy (UDF) 109
Communist Party (PC) 37
Various Left 16
Socialist Radical Party 13
Greens 8
Various Right 8
National Front (FN) 1
Extreme Left -
Extreme Right -
Miscellaneous -

  In light of the above results, the numerical strength of the various National Assembly groups, including attached and associated members, became the following (2 June 1997) :
  • Socialists: 250 (+193)
  • RPR: 140 (-117)
  • UDF: 113 (-102)
  • Communists: 36 (+13)
  • Radical, citizen and green: 33 (+ 33)
  • Unattached: 5 (-20)
  • Distribution of seats according to sex:  
    Men: 514
    Women: 63
    Percent of women: 10.92

    Distribution of seats according to age:  
    30-39 years 50
    40-49 years 156
    50-59 years 259
    60-69 years 95
    70 years and over 17

    Distribution of seats according to profession:

    Teachers 148
    Liberal professions 118
    Judges, civil servants and public sector employees 97
    Private sector employees 96
    Employers and self-employed (including 18 farmers) 62
    Retired and other professions 56

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