On Sunday March 4th, French voters will elect the 490 members of the National Assembly - the more powerful of the country's two chambers.
On Sunday March 4th, French voters will elect the 490 members of the National Assembly - the more powerful of the country's two chambers. The following Sunday (March 11th) there will be a run-off in those constituencies where no clear winner has emerged.
Once the National Assembly is elected it will be up to the President of the Republic, President Pompidou - elected separately in 1969 - to appoint a Prime Minister, who will in turn present a cabinet and government of his choice. The President is not bound to appoint a Prime Minister from the Assembly's majority group - although if he does not there is a danger that the minority Prime Minister will be defeated on a vote of censure in the House.
The ruling Gaullist party will be defending its majority on Sunday. It is led by Prime Minister Pierre Messmer and supported in coalition by the small Independent Republican Party, led by Finance Minister M. Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
The Gaullists' main threat comes from the Socialist-Communist Coalition, which in a recent opinion poll published by the daily Paris newspaper Le Figaro, was shown to be ahead of the Gaullists at present. The Coalition held 46 per cent of the poll as against the Gaullists' 37 per cent. Socialist leader, M. Francois Mitterand, is one of France's most experienced politicians and first became a Minister in 1947. Secretary General of the French Communist Party, M. Georges Marchais, has had less experience as a politician, and was elected to his post only at the end of last year.
The middle of the road Centrist coalition took only 13 per cent of the Le Figaro poll. But they could hold the balance of power in a new Assembly. Some political observers report that there could be a difference of opinion between Radical Party leader, M. Jean-Jacques Servan Schrieber, and Centre Democrat leader, M. Jean Lecanuet. Mr. Servan Schrieber Jeans towards the left, while former Christian Democrat Lecanuet has strong affinities with the Gaullists.