Conservative leader Jacques Chirac, still making up his mind whether to accept the offer to become premier of France, tried to put together a new government Wednesday but found it cut down by a series of vetoes from Socialist President Francois Mitterrand.
Mitterrand's objections made it clear once more that he has no intention of abandoning his powers and becoming a ceremonial president as a result of the slim conservative victory in last Sunday's parliamentary elections.
The French press reported that Mitterrand, who has the constitutional power to appoint the Cabinet, rejected Chirac's choices for ministers of external relations, defense, interior and justice. Two of the choices, who had happily informed journalists of their designation earlier in the day, announced with obvious bitterness later that they have asked Chirac to withdraw their nominations.
Premier Under Giscard
Political associates predicted, however, that the 53-year-old Chirac, who served as premier once before under the conservative President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, will form an acceptable government, probably by today, and inform Mitterrand then that he has accepted the post of premier again.
If that acceptance comes, France, for the first time under the Fifth Republic constitution of President Charles de Gaulle, would have a president and premier of opposing ideologies.
Throughout the day, conservative politicians rushed to the Paris City Hall to confer with Chirac, who is the mayor of the capital, about a possible place in his government. French and foreign television crews gathered near the building, waiting for an announcement from Chirac. But it did not come.
Mitterrand Sees Reporters
At the Elysee Palace, the offices of the president, Mitterrand, 69, walked into the courtyard to speak with the reporters and television crews that had been waiting there for hours for an announcement.
"It's a long time to wait," the president told them.
According to French press reports, Mitterrand had insisted when the premiership was offered to Chirac on Tuesday night that the ministries of external relations and defense had to be filled by politicians who could work well with Mitterrand.
Under the constitution, the president, as the commander of the armed forces and the negotiator of all foreign treaties, has special powers in those fields. Mitterrand, according to the newspaper Le Monde, also said he does not want Cabinet ministers who have provoked him personally in the past.
4 Rejected Nominations
The government-run television reported that Chirac was informed Wednesday that Mitterrand would not accept four of his nominations: Jean Lecanuet, leader of the Union of the French Democracy, Chirac's partner in the conservative majority coalition, as minister of foreign relations; Etienne Dailly, a senator who has long opposed Mitterrand, as minister of justice; Charles Pasqua, a leader of Chirac's Rally for the Republic party, as minister of interior, and Francois Leotard, a leader of a faction of the Union of the French Democracy, as minister of defense.
It was not clear why Mitterrand objected to them. In any case, Lecanuet and Dailly announced their withdrawals later in the day.
In rejecting four candidates, Mitterrand was exercising one of his most significant powers as president. Under the unusual double executive system of France, the premier runs the government and its policies. But the president, through his power to appoint officials nominated by the premier and his power to countersign decrees issued by the Cabinet, has a strong veto that can be used effectively.