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New Voting Laws in France?

France's new center-right government wants to revamp the country's voting laws. The planned changes, which would affect regional and local elections in 2004 as well as parliamentary elections in 2007, would raise the vote threshold for runoff elections. Now, candidates advance to a second round if they win as little as 5%.

Although candidates from smaller parties seldom win outright, the system gives them an opening to demand concessions in exchange for supporting mainstream candidates in the runoff. The changes are aimed at weakening the far-right National Front, whose standard-bearer, Jean-Marie Le Pen, made a strong showing in recent presidential elections. But smaller parties such as the Communists and Greens would also be hurt. EDITED BY Edited by Rose Brady

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