Friday, November 17, 2006

The French will face a choice next year...

The political situation in France is shaping up nicely as a clear choice for the French -and by extension, the EU - on what kind of future they wish to have.

While Chirac has consistently refused to say whether he's running again, I personally doubt he could get elected dogcatcher. Even the French have their standards.

On the Left, the Socialists have united behind Segolene Royal, a photogenic (if vague) ex-junior government minister dealing with environment, schools and family portfolios in intermittent Socialist governments since 1992. She has suggested that France needs more `discipline' and has tiptoed around the idea of abolishing the 35 hour French workweek, which means she may have trouble with France's extreme Left. She is also a woman, a rarity for French electoral politics.

Her center Right competition is likely to be the controversial Justice Minister Nicholas Sarkozy. The governing UMP party that he heads is widely expected to make him their candidate when they convene January 14th.

Sarkozy is vocally pro-American, wants to abolish France's 35-hour work week, calls for opening up the French economy and is a Reaganesque free market advocate. He has extensive experience in top government posts but is hated by the left and by many of the `youths' who despise his tough-on-crime language and policies. For his part, Sarkozy has referred to the mostly Muslim rioters as `scum.' it remanins to be seen whether he will be able to distance himself from Chirac's fiasco in dealing with `the youths' and whether his perscription of tough economic love and pro-American, pro Western rhetoric will resonate with the French.

On the extreme right, of course, is Jean-Marie Le Pen, who stunned France and Europe in the last presidential vote in 2002 by making it into the runoff against Chirac, beating out the Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

For many of the French, frustrated by the deteriorating economy and widespread Islamic violence, Le Pen may look like an increasingly attractive solution, especially if the `youths' take to the streets again next year. At the very least, he could keep either Sarkozy or Royal from getting a clearcut majority, and force another runoff or trade off his support for a voice in government.

This is important because, in case you've for gotten, France is a harbinger for the EU..and they have nukes.

Stay tuned...

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