March 15, 2007


It all went wrong: After 12 years of unkept promises, President Jacques Chirac leaves a confused France longing for someone completely different (The Economist, 3/15/07)

This was the candidate who promised to "mend the social fracture", get the French back to work, combat racial inequality in the banlieues, cut taxes, and put France back on track towards a future of shared prosperity.

On entering the Elysée Palace, Mr Chirac inherited a restive country, with high unemployment, mounting debt, a disoriented electorate and a sense of political stagnation. Twelve years later, having announced his decision not to run again, the 74-year-old Mr Chirac bequeaths to his successor a restive country with high unemployment, mounting debt, a disoriented electorate and an even more intense sense of political stagnation.

During Mr Chirac's two terms in office, French unemployment has averaged 10%, GDP per person has been overtaken by that of both Britain and Ireland, and public debt, at 66% of GDP, has grown faster than in any other European Union country. Over the past two years, the febrile French have rebuffed the president with assiduous regularity. They rebelled over Europe, by saying non in a referendum on its proposed constitution in May 2005. The multi-ethnic banlieues rebelled over social exclusion in three weeks of rioting in the autumn of 2005. The young rebelled over economic reform by taking to the streets against a less-secure job contract for the under-26s a year ago.

One gets the feeling that if an angel came to Earth and showed him what France would be like if Mr. Chirac had never been born it would be no different.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2007 4:27 PM
Comments for this post are closed.