The French general election was till in the balance on Sunday night (4 March) as the ballots from the first of two rounds of voting were counted.
GV INTERIOR Press room with results on television monitors (2 shots)
CU Ballot box emptied on to table & votes counted (4 shots)
CU Monitors watched by press (3 shots)
GV Crowd reactions outside
GV INTERIOR News-paper plant, printers reading first copies of L'Aurore off press (5 shots)
Initials ESP/1946 ESP/2003
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Background: The French general election was till in the balance on Sunday night (4 March) as the ballots from the first of two rounds of voting were counted.
The results bore out the opinion polls, which said before the election that the combined left coalition of Communists and Socialists were leading the ruling Gaullist party and its allies.
But the closeness of the vote in most constituencies means the make-up of the next Chamber of Deputies depends on the results of the balloting on Sunday (11 March). Only candidates with an overall majority in the first ballot were elected. There were only 55 constituencies where the outcome was known. Forty-six of these were won by government supported Gaullists, 8 by Communists and one by the Socialists. A second round will be held in 414 constituencies on Sunday.
Government Interior Minister, Raymond Marcellin, said the closeness of first-round balloting meant many seats would be decided by a few dozen votes.
The strong challenge to the government by the left does not mean they will form the next government. The way constituency boundaries are drawn gives more seats to the rural, predominantly Gaullist areas, than to the more crowded urban constituencies. Socialist Party leader, Francois Mitterand, has conceded that the left coalition must get a five per cent increase on the first round results to gain parliamentary control.
The election outcome can be determined by the outcome of bargaining during the week between the two votes. Since the winner of the second round has only to get the most votes rather than a clear majority, some marginal candidates can drop out and support stronger candidates.
SYNOPSIS: The results flashed on monitors in the press room in the French Interior Ministry on Sunday night bore out predictions that the French general election would be a close one.
First round balloting showed the great majority of constituencies will have to vote in next Sunday's second round. In only fifty-five seats did candidates get the clear majority necessary to win on the first round. In the second ballot candidates need only get more votes than their nearest opponent to win. The first round results proved pre-election opinion polls were correct in predicting a tight race for the ruling Gaullist party and a possible win for the left.
Left coalition candidates took forty-seven per cent of the votes to the Gaullists thirty-eight.
But electoral boundaries are drawn to gibe a larger number of seats to the rural areas, which mainly support the Gaullists.
As results become available, the Socialist-Communist alliance acknowledged it must pick up another five per cent of the vote to offset the lopsided electoral map. In the week of bargaining between votes, marginal candidates can drop out, throwing their support to stronger candidates. A possible ally for the Gaullists is the centrist Reform party which won twelve per cent of the first ballot.