Socialist President Francois Mitterrand on Tuesday asked right-wing rival Jacques Chirac to serve as premier of France, but Chirac withheld a reply after the two obviously failed to work out acceptable conditions for governing the country together.
It was not clear whether Mitterrand or Chirac had stronger cards to play in their evident test of political wills. Mitterrand's Socialist Party lost control of the National Assembly in Sunday's elections. But the Chirac-[Valery Giscard] d'Estaing coalition failed to win a majority by itself and will have a bare majority only with the help of independent rightists.
In asking Chirac to serve as premier, Mitterrand chose the first choice of the conservatives themselves. The 53-year-old Chirac, who has been the mayor of Paris since 1977, obviously has his eyes on a race for the presidency when Mitterrand's term ends in 1988. Many political analysts believe that he needs the exposure of the premiership to build up his popularity.