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Behind the Headlines French Elections and Israel

The first round in the French legislative elections, which took place here yesterday, seems to indicate that France’s policy in the Middle East will drastically change with the formation of the new government. The results of the first round seem to indicate that the Gaullist majority will form the next government but will heavily depend on the support and backing of the center Reform Party led by Rouen Mayor Jean Lecanuet and Jean Jacques Servan-Schreiber. The Reform Party has made it crystal-clear in pre-election declarations that an improvement in France-Israeli relations is a basic issue of its program.

Lecanuet and Servan-Schreiber told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency a few days before the election that they will demand a switch in France’s Middle East policy, a halt to the arms embargo, and a rapprochement with Israel. Last night, the two Reform Party leaders stressed that they will support the Gaullists and help them form a new government “only on condition that the Reform Party program is adopted.”

During yesterday’s vote for the election of the 490-member National Assembly, the left-wing Socialist-Communist coalition came to within four points of winning an absolute majority of the popular vote. The latest figures as revealed here today by the Interior Ministry, with some 80 percent of the vote counted, give the Left 46.3 percent of the vote and the Gaullists only 38.1 percent.

Due to the complexities of the French electoral system, which provides for an election in two rounds, all candidates who have won at least 10 percent of the vote in the first round can run again. This system, which enables candidates to withdraw in each other’s favor, could give final victory to the Gaullists if they obtain the support of the small, 12.4 percent, but now all important Reform Party. The second round will take place March 11.

Even if the Gaullists win, the new Gaullist government will have to put up with a far larger and more dynamic opposition. The entry of the Reform Party into the new government, which most observers here take for granted, would probably involve the appointment of Lecanuet as French Foreign Minister. The current Minister, Maurice Schumann, seems in any case barred from a Cabinet post in the next government as he made a very poor showing yesterday and seems practically certain not to be re-elected to the House According to French tradition, ministers are invariably appointed from within the lower House.

JEWISH CANDIDATES IN THE ELECTION

The following results are available from yesterday’s elections:

Daniel Mayer, a former Jewish minister and president of the League for Human Rights, who ran on the Socialist ticket in northern Paris, will have to run again for the second round. His chances of being elected are given as “moderate.” Jean-Pierre Bloch, the son of former Justice Minister Pierre-Bloch, and president of LICA (the International League Against Anti-Semitism), who ran on the Socialist ticket in another northern Paris district, will also have to run again. His chances are also given as “moderate.

Former Jewish Information Minister Leo Hamon, who ran on the Gaullist ticket in the Essone district near Paris, is given a very good chance of being re-elected next Sunday. Former Gaullist minister and one of Israel’s staunchest friends, Jacques Soustelle, who is trying to make a political comeback in the city of Lyons, did not win an absolute majority in the first round, but is practically certain of victory next week.

The re-elections of former Socialist Premier Guy Mollet in Arras, and General Paul Stehlin, a Reform candidate in Paris, also seem certain. Both are staunch friends of Israel. Pro-Israeli Jewish deputy Claude Gerard Marcus also seems certain of re-election. Marcus ran in Paris on the Gaullist list. Another pro-Israeli figure, former Premier Maurice Bourges-Maunoury was practically eliminated from the contest at yesterday’s first round. Also in poor positions were such prominent Gaullist leaders as former Premier and Foreign Minister Maurice Couve de Murville and anti-Israeli spokesman Habib Deloncle.

No exact figures are available but most observers, basing themselves on the returns from heavily Jewish populated districts, believe that many of France’s Jews voted for either the Reform or the Socialist Party. Jewish organizations here did not officially take a stand in the election, saying that every French Jew would have to vote according to the dictates of his conscience and his personal political inclinations.

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