Chirac Weakened, But Still Alive

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PARIS: Chirac's decision to dissolve the National Assembly and call for early elections proved to be an enormous blunder, one which will severely weaken his administration and most likely shift the balance of power towards the new Socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin. But Paris Bureau Chief Sancton says that the powers vested in the French presidency will allow Chirac to maintain significant influence. "You hear people talking about him as a lame duck, but under the French Republic, the President has certain reserved powers, areas in which he is preeminent. These include foreign policy, security policy and diplomacy. He also retains the power to dissolve the Assembly and call new elections after a year. So if the Socialists fail to perform, Chirac might roll the dice again to see if he can get a majority. The final thing he has going in his favor is that he has time on his side. Nobody can force him out of power until his term ends in 2002. So, he's not finished. He still has some aces up his sleeve."