PARIS — BY most standards, it would have been considered a smashing victory. Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac's electoral list won 13 of the capital's 20 districts. Mr. Chirac's supporters could gain a clean sweep in runoff elections on Sunday.
So what's wrong?
Despite Chirac's victorious quest for a third six-year term as mayor of Paris, bright new faces questioning his leadership within his own party won even more spectacular victories in the election. And for the first time, his renowned civic management of the French capital has come under attack.
In an energetic campaign, Socialist opponent Pierre Joxe criticized everything from the city's parking crunch to its abundance of dog droppings.
The Socialists released figures showing that rents had soared in recent years, and that a growing percentage of the middle class, along with the poor, have been forced to move to the suburbs. In Mr. Joxe's words, the mayor is ``turning Paris into a ghetto for billionaires.''
The attacks had little impact upon the capital's remaining wealthy citizens. But some analysts say they may have an impact on less well-off Frenchmen in the provinces.
Chirac wasn't just campaigning to win Parisian hearts: He needs to keep his sparkling image among small shopkeepers and workers to make any future comeback on the national scene.
As leader of the Gaullist Rally for the Republic Party, Chirac also was upstaged in the municipal elections by younger, less partisan Gaullists.
In Grenoble, Alain Carignon, who, over Chirac's opposition, ran with Socialists on his list, swept to an impressive triumph. And in Lyon, Michel Noir, who criticized Chirac for not standing up to the xenophobic National Front, swept to victory against an entrenched conservative incumbent.
``How will the RPR deal with the emergence of reformers within its ranks after the smashing success of Michel Noir?'' asks Huges Portelli, a political scientist at the University of Paris. ``These elections may not have a large national impact - except in the internal life of the parties.''