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Jérôme, it's great to see this this morning, and congratulations on writing an op-ed for the WSJ!

Having lived for many years in France, I think I can say that your overall view is accurate and well rooted in fact. Your point about a worn-out political class is particularly well taken. Something that has always struck me about French political life as compared to British (I'm taking the UK as an example because it's my country of origin), is just how long a pol can survive by treading water, going under, resurfacing... While in Britain, careers are generally briefer, and someone who doesn't do well just disappears. In France, having shown your incompetence (and propensity for sleaze) in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s seems to be a recommendation. (Am I thinking of anyone in particular? That's this morning's riddle... French readers won't have too much trouble finding the answer...)

Part of the problem seems to me to lie in the constitution of the 5th Republic, which was tailor-made for General de Gaulle in 1958 and centralizes a great deal of power in the office of the president. It takes a lot of the bite out of parliamentary life and even the work of the executive itself, which often seems a bit of a puppet show. Yet there are placeholders fighting to play the part of puppets... And, not unreasonably, they end by losing the respect of most citizens, who increasingly feel they are not represented in a pertinent way.

So I agree with your conclusion: that what France needs most is a breath of fresh air to blow the dust off its democracy. As for its supposed economic weakness, that's more a question, imho, of perceptions and of media narrative.

Congratulations again on this excellent piece.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 02:10:07 AM EST

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