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French legislative election, 1973

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French legislative election, 1973

French legislative election, 1973

4 March and 11 March 1973

All 491 seats to the French National Assembly
246 seats were needed for a majority
  Majority party Minority party
Leader Pierre Messmer François Mitterrand
Party UDR PS
Leader's seat Moselle-8th Nièvre-3rd
Last election 354 seats 57 seats
Seats won 272* 102
Seat change 82 45
Popular vote 8,242,661 (1st round)
10,701,135 (2nd round)
4,559,241 (1st round)
5,564,610 (2nd round)
Percentage 34.68% (1st round)
45.62% (2nd round)
19.18% (1st round)
23.72% (2nd round)

  Third party Fourth party
Leader Georges Marchais Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber (Radical),
Jean Lecanuet (CD, above)
Party PCF Reforming Movement
Leader's seat none Nancy (Servan-Schreiber),
Seine-Maritime (Lecanuet)
Last election 34 seats 33 (Progress and Modern Democracy)
Seats won 73 30
Seat change 39 3
Popular vote 5,085,108 (1st round)
4,893,876 (2nd round)
2,979,781 (1st round)
1,631,978 (2nd round)
Percentage 21.39% (1st round)
20.86% (2nd round)
12.54% (1st round)
6.96% (2nd round)

* Including Independent Republicans and Centre, Democracy and Progress.

PM before election

Pierre Messmer

Elected PM

Pierre Messmer

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
France portal

French legislative elections took place on 4 and 11 March 1973 to elect the 5th National Assembly of the Fifth Republic.

In order to end the President of France.

In order to respond to the discontent expressed during May 1968, Jacques Chaban-Delmas, the left-wing Gaullist who led the cabinet, promoted a programme of reforms for the advent of a "New Society", which advocated social dialogue and political liberalisation. This worried the conservative part of the Presidential Majority and Pompidou himself. Furthermore, Chaban-Delmas was accused, by the presidential circle, to want strengthen his powers to the detriment of Pompidou. In 1972, Chaban-Delmas is replaced by Pierre Messmer, a classical and conservative Gaullist.

After Gaston Defferre's catastrophic result in the 1969 presidential election, the SFIO was replaced by the Socialist Party (PS), formed by the SFIO's merger with an array of political clubs on the democratic left. Two years later, François Mitterrand's Convention of Republican Institutions joined the PS. He took the party's lead during the Epinay Congress, and proposed to form an alliance with the French Communist Party (PCF). In order to prepare the legislative elections, Communists and Socialists signed the Common Programme.

The Radical Party split over the question of the Common Programme. The left-wing minority joined the "Union of Left" and founded the Movement of the Radical-Socialist Left (MGRS). The majority created the Reforming Movement with a part of the center-right. This new group claimed its independence towards the "Union of Left" and the Presidential Majority.

The Common Programme was the main issue of the campaign. Its defenders pleaded the necessity to nationalize banks and companies which were in a situation of monopoly. The members of the Presidential Majority denounced a collectivist project and warned against the participation of Communists in the government if the Left won. The Reforming Movement tried to express a third way rejecting the Marxism of the Left and the Euroscepticism of the Gaullists. But, it was obliged to link with the Right to obtain parliamentary seats.

Whilst the left won an increased number of votes and MPs, the Presidential Majority won the election. The Gaullist UDR lost one third of its parliamentary seats due to the growth of the Left and electoral agreements with its allies, the Independent Republicans and Centre, Democracy and Progress. Messmer was confirmed as Prime Minister.


Parties and coalitions 1st round 2nd round Total seats
Votes % Votes %
Union of Republicans for Progress (Union des républicains de progrès) URP 8,242,661 34.68 10,701,135 45.62 272
  • 183
  • 55
  • 34
Reforming Movement (Mouvement réformateur) MR 2,979,781 12.54 1,631,978 6.96 30
Presidential Majority (Majorité présidentielle) MAJ 784,735 3.30 337,399 1.44 12
Miscellaneous Right DVD 671,505 2.83 21,053 0.09 0
Total Right ("Presidential Majority" and MR) 12,678,682 53.34 12,691,565 54.11 314
French Communist Party (Parti communiste français) PCF 5,085,108 21.39 4,893,876 20.86 73
Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) - Movement of the Radical-Socialist Left (Mouvement de la gauche radicale-socialiste) PS-MRG 4,559,241 19.18 5,564,610 23.72 102
Unified Socialist Party (Parti socialiste unifié) PSU 778,195 3.27 114,540 0.49 1
Miscellaneous Left DVG 668,100 2.81 191,441 0.82 0
Total "Union of Left" 11,090,644 46.66 10,764,467 45.89 176
Total 23,769,326 100.00 23,456,032 100.00 488
Abstention: 18.76% (1st round); 18.11% (2nd round)
Popular vote (first round)

5th National Assembly by Parliamentary Group

Group Members Caucusing Total
  UDR Group 162 20 180
  Socialist Party and Left Radical Party Group 100 2 102
  Communist Group 73 0 73
  Independent Republicans Group 73 0 73
  RDS Group 30 4 30
  Centrist Union Group 30 0 30
  Non-Inscrits 13 0 13
Total: 459 31 490
  • The Centrist Union group later joined the RDS group.
  • The UDR group evolved into the RPR group.
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