1981 French legislative election

Legislative elections were held in France on 14 and 21 June 1981,[1] to elect the seventh National Assembly of the Fifth Republic.

1981 French legislative election
← 1978 14 June and 21 June 1981 1986 →

All 491 seats in the National Assembly
246 seats needed for a majority
Turnout70.35% (first round)
69.13% (second round)
Party Leader % Seats +/–
PSMRG Pierre Mauroy 37.52 283 +169
RPR Jacques Chirac 20.81 85 −65
UDF Jean Lecanuet 19.20 61 −69
PCF Georges Marchais 16.17 44 −42
DVD 2.80 11 +2
DVG 0.73 7 +5
Prime Minister before Prime Minister after
Raymond Barre
Pierre Mauroy

The Socialist Party (PS) achieved the biggest electoral success of their history. This result marked the triumph of Mitterrand's strategy. Like the Gaullist Union of Democrats for the Republic in 1968, the PS obtained an absolute parliamentary majority. The French Communist Party (PCF) obtained its poorest result since 1936 and lost the half of its MPs, most of them to the PS. However, four Communists became members of Pierre Mauroy's government. This was the first PCF governmental participation since 1947. The two main right-wing parliamentary parties, the Rally for the Republic (RPR) and Union for French Democracy (UDF), lost the half of their seats too. This result earned the nickname "the pink wave" from the press.

Background edit

On 10 May 1981 François Mitterrand was elected president, becoming the first Socialist to win this post under universal suffrage. It was also the first occasion of alternance (between the right and the left) in government during the Fifth Republic.

The new head of state nominated Pierre Mauroy to lead a Socialist cabinet. He then dissolved the National Assembly so that he could rely on a parliamentary majority. The left had lost the 1978 legislative election and the full term of the National Assembly would have expired in 1983.

Campaign edit

Knocked out after its defeat in the recent presidential election, the right campaigned against the concentration of the powers and the possible nomination of Communist ministers. However, it suffered from the economic crisis, the will for change amongst the electorate, and the rivalry between RPR leader Jacques Chirac and previous UDF President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. The formation of the Union for a New Majority appeared as a false reconciliation and so, had not convinced voters. Furthermore, as the PCF had been declining, and was no longer the dominant party of the Left, it did not seem to be a real danger.

The Communist leaders were very disappointed by the result of their candidate, Georges Marchais, in the presidential election, and very worried by the legislative elections. During the presidential campaign, the PCF had denounced the "turn towards the right" of the Socialist Party, in vain. It understood that Mitterrand was ready to win his bet, expressed in the 1972 Congress of the Socialist International, to capture 3 of the 5 million PCF voters. Perceiving the great hope of the left-wing voters after Mitterrand's election, Marchais signed a "contract of government" with the First Secretary of the PS Lionel Jospin.

Results edit

PartyFirst roundSecond roundTotal
Socialist Party9,432,36237.52479,198,33249.25222269
Movement of Left Radicals11314
Rally for the Republic5,231,26920.81504,174,30222.353585
Union for French Democracy4,827,43719.20433,489,36318.681861
French Communist Party4,065,54016.1771,303,5876.983744
Miscellaneous right704,7882.807408,8612.19411
Miscellaneous left183,0100.73197,0660.5267
Valid votes25,141,19098.5618,675,02897.33
Invalid/blank votes367,6101.44512,6782.67
Total votes25,508,800100.0019,187,706100.00
Registered voters/turnout36,257,43370.3527,757,37469.13
Source: IPU

Parliamentary groups in the National Assembly edit

Socialist Group285
RPR Group88
UDF Group62
Communist Group44

References edit

  1. ^ "France" (PDF). Inter-Parliamentary Union.