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Strangely enough FT.com has an article echoing many of the points you make about the political class.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 03:24:44 AM EST
I saw that yesterday night and was about to put it in a comment. You're kinda stealing my thunder here.... :-)

So yes, in a timely fashion, the FT's regular columnist from France, Dominique Moïsi, publishes today a commentary which go along fairly similar lines:

it is undeniable that France is in a dual crisis of confidence that concerns its essence as well as its performance, a crisis that is part of but goes beyond the "European crisis". Britain is becoming a comparative mirror. On July 6, when Paris lost the 2012 Olympics to London, the disillusion was accompanied by a "what's wrong with us?" interrogation.


Mr Chirac by contrast is undeniably France's legal president, re-elected in 2002 with 82 per cent of the votes, but his legitimacy is questioned. His unpopularity is unparalleled in the Fifth Republic's history. His name is more associated with failed efforts and wrong decisions than with successful outcomes. And above all he has been for so long at the forefront of politics - he was prime minister 30 years ago - that his message no longer gets through. A once very young premier has become an old and lonely president, closer to King Lear than Henry V.


France suffers from a serious structural political crisis. To express it differently, a gap now exists between the quality of France's economic and political elites. Among the first, one encounters creativity, dynamism, enthusiasm and success. The "France that wins" is there. By contrast the incestuous relationship between the civil service and politicians, fostered by the dominance of the elite training school, the National School of Administration, has encouraged aloofness and technocratic bias within the political debate. The No vote in the EU constitutional treaty referendum was in part due to a growing divorce between society and the political class.


At a deeper level, France's problems stem from a combination of too much state and yet also too much personal selfishness. With a greater sense of collective solidarity - in a Nordic way - the French would not have to rely so much on the state in adjusting to new demographic and economic realities.


Mr Chirac has failed to reconcile the French with politics. It will be his successor's task to demonstrate that, even in France, it is not a "mission impossible". It starts with telling the truth to a country living well beyond its means.

I find it ironic that the now most frequent criticism made of France is that it is "living well beyond its means" when its problems stem precisely from the fact that it is being compared to two economies which are actually living beyond their means, the USA and the UK, whose growth makes them look comparatively dynamic and successful whereas they are largely splurging on debt.

But yes, like Moïsi writes (elsewhere in the article, France needs a President it can be proud of.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 03:34:48 AM EST
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Dominique Moïsi is right about a lot of things, but comparing Chirac to King Lear is offering him more noblesse than he deserves. He has always been more mediocre than either Henry V or King Lear.

But up comes the question, again, of "who's next?" I don't see a wind of change blowing through French politics, and I do believe that is France's number one handicap at the moment.  

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 03:48:30 AM EST
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The current issue of The New Yorker has a mid-length piece (not available online) by Adam Gopnik on the French political climate.  The best I can come up with is this bit from their press release:
In "The Real Thing" (p. 36), in the August 22, 2005, issue of The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik reports on the looming political crisis facing France. The causes include the recent French rejection of the draft of a new European Constitution, the loss to London of the 2012 Summer Olympics, and even the closing of Paris's famed Samaritaine department store, which, Gopnik writes, "remains not so much a symbol of the French crisis as an example of the thing itself: a beautiful and legendary success of modernity, trembling at the approach of the postmodern, with plenty of money behind it but no clear path forward, caught in a miasma of regulation, rumor, and discontented workers." Phillipe Manière, the director of the Montaigne Institute, says, "The situation in France is nearly pre-revolutionary," noting the elements that make it so: the rejection of the constitution, the overwhelming mistrust of conventional politicians and politics--or, worse, the absolute lack of attention to what they do or say in public, especially among the young--and the decades-long tenure that makes them so difficult to replace. Gopnik reports that for many people, hope lies in the improbable figure of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is more or less running for President, and who is remaking himself as a French Giuliani, but Gopnik writes, "It's hard to believe that Sarkozy is not another Chirac, and pursuing the same cynical opportunism."

For one who's never been to France, it's an interesting article, and if anyone with direct knowledge of the political scene in France has had a chance to read it, I'd be interested to read their take on it.
by The Maven on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 08:20:06 PM EST
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