Polls reveal the confusion: Asked recently who they believed was now the chief executive of France, 41% replied [Jacques Chirac], 40% replied [Francois Mitterrand], and 19% said they did not know. But, whoever is in charge, most French have good feelings about cohabitation-popularity ratings of both Mitterrand and Chirac have soared.
In contradiction, Mitterrand aides leaked their account to Le Monde, the influential Paris newspaper. After Mitterrand received the request from President Reagan, according to the account, Mitterrand telephoned Chirac, the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of defense. All three, said Le Monde, "fell into agreement with the president."
Olivier Duhamel, a well-known professor of constitutional law, recently warned against counting out the president; Mitterrand holds a line of power because of his direct election by a majority of the voters of France. "Mitterrand is one of those rare French political men who knows how to master time," said Duhamel. "He can take in a lot of oxygen before plunging underwater and reappearing spectacularly. . . . We will see the progressive reappearance of Francois Mitterrand in the sharing of power."