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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Jospin resigns after Chirac triumph
Jacques Chirac after winning election
Chirac's real challenge is to beat the left in June
Defeated socialist Lionel Jospin has formally resigned as French prime minister, two weeks after his shock elimination from the presidential race which Jacques Chirac went on to win by a landslide.

Mr Jospin travelled to the Elysee Palace on Monday morning to submit his resignation to Mr Chirac, who has won a new five-year term as president.

Mr Chirac took more than 82% of the vote in Sunday's second-round poll, leaving his National Front rival, Jean-Marie Le Pen, trailing on 18%.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin
French PM hopefuls
  • Jean-Pierre Raffarin: 53, senator and vice-president of the Liberal Democracy (DL) party
  • Nicolas Sarkozy: 47, mayor of the Paris suburb of Neuilly and member of President Chirac's Rally for the Republic (RPR)
  • Philippe Douste-Blazy: 49, mayor of Toulouse and legislator

Mr Chirac was expected to name a new right-wing prime minister later on Monday.

The new appointee will be charged with leading the right into the June parliamentary election in the hope of dislodging the ruling left-wing coalition.

There are thought to be three front-runners for the job - Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Nicolas Sarkozy and Nicole Fontaine are all prominent politicians.

Mr Chirac trounced Mr Le Pen in Sunday's run-off vote after voters surged to the polls to keep out the far-right.

French opinion polls released on Sunday night suggested that centre-right parties backing the president would win a small majority in the National Assembly.

But the BBC's James Coomarasamy reports from Paris that many of those celebrating victory on Sunday night were cheering the defeat of the far right rather than the success of Mr Chirac.

'Booted out'

Crowds poured onto the streets of Paris as Mr Chirac hailed a defeat for "intolerance and demagoguery".

Results with 97% of votes counted
Jacques Chirac: 82.06 %
Jean-Marie Le Pen: 17.94 %

"We have gone through a time of serious anxiety for the country - but tonight France has reaffirmed its attachment to the values of the republic," he said.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair described the result as "a victory for democracy and a defeat for extremism", while European Commission president Romano Prodi said the French people had demonstrated that their nation belonged to the heart of Europe.

There had been almost daily anti-Le Pen protests in France between the two rounds of voting, with 1.3 million demonstrators pouring on to the streets on May Day alone.

"The French people wanted to teach the politicians a lesson in the first round but this time they wanted to boot out the extreme right and they did it," said Dany-Lois Sabarroli, a schoolteacher who took to the streets Paris to hail the result.

Chirac needs to take the concerns of his country far more seriously

Michael, Canada

Mr Le Pen admitted defeat, calling it a setback for "the hopes of the French" - but he pointed out his share of the vote had risen from the 16.86% achieved in round one.

Saying that France was in the hands of "robbers" - a reference to sleaze allegations that have dogged President Chirac - he pledged to continue the fight in next month's parliamentary election.

Mr Chirac scored a mere 20% in the first round - a record low for a front-runner - but his margin of victory in the second round was the biggest ever in a French presidential election.

Chirac's plans

Mr Chirac has already served as president for seven years, but for most of that time he has been little more than a figurehead leader as a result of "cohabitation" with a Socialist government.

In his victory speech, he said the top priority for the new government would be the fight against crime.

"Freedom means security, it means the fight against violence... Reducing violence is the first priority of the state in the times to come," he said.

Some observers have suggested that Mr Le Pen's success could cause the left to bounce back for the June vote - which Socialists are referring to as the "third round" of the presidential election - resulting in another period of cohabitation.

To register a protest at the absence of a left-wing candidate, some voters wore gloves or pegs on their nose as they cast their ballot.

The BBC's Janet Barrie
"This has been an exceptional election"
President Jacques Chirac
"We have just lived through a time of grave uncertainty for the nation"
Jean-Marie Le Pen, National Front leader
"The result I have obtained is remarkable, it places us as the main political force"
National Front deputy leader Bruno Gollinisch
"You can't suppress a strong political trend such as ours"

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06 May 02 | Europe
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