For the first time since Charles de Gaulle designed a new constitution in 1958, France has a president from one party and a prime minister from another. No one knows how the power-sharing between the Socialist Party and its conservative adversaries will work out, but earlier concerns over the possibility of political paralysis were diminished by the surprising closeness of the vote in Sunday's parliamentary elections.
Close to 20% of the vote was evenly divided between the Communists--whose decline as a major political force was confirmed--and the racist, right-wing National Front, which will be represented in the National Assembly for the first time. Despite the rise of the National Front, most French citizens obviously voted for moderation.
President Francois Mitterrand's Socialists lost their majority in the National Assembly, as was expected. But the two large right-of-center parties will actually need the help of 14 independent conservatives to form a parliamentary majority. With Mitterrand still in the presidentialpalace, conservative parties will have trouble keeping their campaign promises to turn most government-owned businesses back to private enterprise and remove the barriers to dismissal of surplus workers.
Under the French constitution the president and the prime minister share responsibility for policymaking--a situation that causes no problems when both are from the same party, but invites partisan conflict when they are not.