IT HAD TO HAPPEN. When the Socialist Party of French President Francois Mitterrand failed to hold its parliamentary majority in last March's election, political pundits predicted that the system of "cohabitation" would have a paralyzing effect on the government.

Now, on one critical issue at least, that seems to have happened.Last week the Socialists openly criticized the government of Prime Minister Jacque Chirac for inconsistencies in dealing with terrorists. There have been serious disagreements between these factions before - the issue of privatization springs immediately to mind - but on no issue is national consensus more important than terrorism. Any truly effective response to terrorism requires a unified front.

The recent wave of bombings in Paris has frayed nerves in the French capital and disagreements on how best to deal with such savage attacks are to be expected. But public griping on the issue, serves to benefit only one party - the terrorists themselves.

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