French Communists cut ties

The divorce is official: France's Communist Party no longer will have anything to do with the Socialist government. Although the four Communist ministers withdrew from the government in July, the party continued to vote with the parliamentary majority.

But in a series of tough statements at the weekend, party leaders completed their realignment into the opposition by saying they will vote against future legislation they may dislike.

''We won't support decisions that we consider contrary to the interests of the country,'' party leader Georges Marchais said.

The Communists' decision suggests new difficulties for Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, who is trying to rally the country behind a tough program of economic austerity.

He plans to announce Wednesday a budget for next year with the tightest postwar squeeze on public spending. The new Communist announcements hint they will vote ''no.''

With a parliamentary majority, the Socialists are able to pass the bill alone. But the Communists could harass their former allies by fomenting labor unrest - and by making future left-wing governments' dependent on their support problematic.

The Socialists are forced, now more than ever before, to move to the political center. Instead of their traditional alliances of the left, they probably will have to join future coalitions of the center.

Such an earthquake in the French political landscape could relegate the Communists to a ghetto. In the past decade, the party's vote has tumbled from nearly 25 percent to some 11 percent.

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