Rocard Replaces Chirac; Socialist Appeals to Center
Michel Rocard, a Socialist known for his appeal to France’s political center, was chosen today by President Francois Mitterrand to succeed conservative Jacques Chirac as premier.
Chirac, defeated Sunday when Mitterrand swept to reelection to a new seven-year term, visited the presidential Elysee Palace to submit his resignation, ending two years of an uneasy power-sharing between a conservative premier and Socialist president.
Mitterrand’s chief of staff, Jean-Louis Bianco, made a terse announcement about 2 1/2 hours later, saying only the 57-year-old Rocard will be the new premier but providing no details of who will serve in the Cabinet.
The new premier will be expected to invite non-Socialists into the Cabinet to demonstrate an appeal beyond the party’s boundaries.
Because Chirac still has support of the center-right majority coalition in the National Assembly, the constitution did not require him to step down and the president could not dismiss him.
But there was never any doubt Chirac would quit following his defeat at the polls. Mitterrand won reelection with 54% of the vote to Chirac’s 46%.
‘Prepare the Reconquest’
In a farewell speech to his ministers at the prime minister’s Hotel Matignon offices, Chirac said, “The right thing in political life, after a defeat, is to prepare the reconquest.”
Chirac looked grim and made no statement when he arrived for a 10-minute meeting with Mitterrand.
Rocard always has been rated among the most popular politicians in public opinion polls. He is known for stating his opinions whether or not they coincide with his party’s.
Rocard resigned as agriculture minister in the Socialist government of Premier Laurent Fabius in 1985, saying he could not support a change to a new system of electing the National Assembly that distributed seats among parties based on their proportion of the vote.
The Socialists control just 211 seats in the 577-member National Assembly, so the new premier will need to form either a firm coalition with centrist forces, or make temporary alliances on particular issues.
Mitterrand also could dissolve the body and call new elections, but he has said he will do so only if his first government loses a vote of confidence.