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THE WEEK AHEAD

PARIS : Message to Mitterrand

March 16, 1993

France's voters go to the polls Sunday in the first round of parliamentary elections expected to oust the Socialist Party-led coalition government and create two years of moderate right-wing "cohabitation" with Socialist President Francois Mitterrand.

The 76-year-old Mitterrand has two years left on what he says will be his last term in office. His party, rocked by charges of corruption and blamed for its failure to stem the country's high unemployment rate, is expected to lose badly in the two-round election for the French National Assembly, with right-wing parties winning as many as 400 of the 550 available seats.

However, Mitterrand, already the longest-serving French leader since Napoleon III, has vowed to serve out his term in order to protect the "social benefits" he claims his party has gained for the French people. Mitterrand's skillful political maneuvering during a previous cohabitation period five years ago paved the way to his reelection as president in the spring of 1988.

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