France still spinning after whirlwind Socialist victory
Paris — The ruddy-faced dairywoman at the bustling. Rue de Levis street market with its brightly decked vegetable stalls and sweet-smelling pastry shops carefully cut a large slice of Bleu d'Auvergne cheese from behind the counter.
"What do you think is going t happen?" she asked anxiously. "I voted for change and am ready to give the Socialists a chance, but do you think everything will turn out all right?"
Many French people are still incredulous at the fact that France has gone socialist after 23 years of conservative rule. Particularly the Socialists and Communists. "I still can't believe that we are no longer in opposition. IT just seem so unreal, " remarked a young lawyer as he sipped lemonade on the sunny terrace of a nearby cafe. "But we really won't know what it is like to be in power until after the [June 14 and 21] legislative elections."
Since taking office May 21, France's new President, Francois Mitterrand, has moved quickly but prudently toward establishing credibility in the eyes of the French electorate. Still riding a wave of left-wing enthusiasm, the Socialists are keen on taking full advantage of it in the coming elections. Only then will France's new majority demonstrate how serious it is about supporting a Socialist- dominated government and give it the working majority it needs.
The future will be decided, observed Jean Poperen, the Socialist Party's electoral specialist, "on whether the French will seek to counterbalance the powers of the new President or whether they will provide him with the means to pursue his policies. Only a sweeping vote, as happened in 1958 with De Gaulle, can give the Socialists the seats they require."
According to the latest opinion poll, the Socialists can expect to do remarkably well although analysts are hesitant to predict anything that might resemble a landslide victory. Mitterrand, it appears, will more likely than not have to rely on a left-wing coalition ranging from Communists and neo-Gaullists to obtain a majority in the National Assembly.
Severely cautioning the French about the months to come, the conservatives, particularly neo-Gaullist leader Jacques Chirac, have begun a hard-hitting electoral campaign against the new government. Calling for "change without risk ," the neo-Gaulllists have placed full-page advertisements in the press. "Should we send a Socialist-Communist majority to the National Assembly and give it the power to immediately disrupt our society?" they demand rhetorically.
The fear of nationalization, for example, has spread the some small companies and individuals despite reassurances by Finance Minister Jacques Delors that they need not be concerned. Only 11 large industrial groups will be affected, the government asserts. But this would bring the total of French industry, including those companies nationalized by De Gaulle after the war, under state control.
In one case of knee-jerk panic, one woman from Nice rushed to her bank and began removing the contents of her safety deposit box. When the bank director asked what she was doing, she told him that she did not want her holdings nationalized. The banker then told the stupefied woman that her bank has, in fact, been nationalized for more than 30 years.
"This sort of mass panic is totally un founded," Jim Begg, a Paris broker, said. "The right is purposely trying to create an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty in order ti win the legislatives mitterrand is not out to change everything he sees. He knows that he has got to have the support of the business community if he wants to succeed."
The Arabs appear to be the most concerned among the foreigners. Putting exceedingly heavy pressure on the mitterrand administration, they are demanding that Communists should not under any circumstances be included in a future government. Holding France's oil strings as well as enormous financial assets in French banks, the Arabs will prove tricky partners. In an attempt to allay Arab fears, Mitterrand has sent his brother, Robert, an engineer, to the Middle East.
Many conservative French businessmen, however, although obviously worried about Mitterrand's proposed increases in social charges and interest rates which could seriously threaten the survival of small and medium-size companies, have decied to continue normal activities and hoep for the best.
"What is important," warned Alain Chevallier, vice-president of France's Executive Council, "is that companies should have a clear vision of what the future will be like. They need a climate of confidence."