Monday, May 07, 2007

C'est matin en France

Congratulations et félicitations au nouvel Président de la République, from the land of le capitalisme neo-impérialiste et sauvage! :>)

It wasn't the landslide that some predicted - only 53% to 47% - but Nicolas Sarkozy, the center-right candidate did win France's election Sunday. And the turnout was massive, maybe the biggest in the history of the Fifth Republic. Here's English-language reporting from the Economist, and an interesting background article from Commentary. See earlier postings on Europe's crisis here, here, and here.

It's been clear since the hapless Jacques Chirac* was re-elected in 2002 that France's drift and decline would continue, unless and until a serious shakeup was at hand. The four main candidates this time were not ideal - and one, Le Pen, is really a disgrace - but they nonetheless signal that real change has finally arrived. Apart from Le Pen, they're considerably younger than Chirac, and all grasp that France has been sinking deeper and deeper into serious trouble.

One way of looking at Europe's problems is that, in many ways, the 1970s never ended there. The rise of the EU has brought some degree of governmental self-discipline to the old continent, but at the price of alienating democratic sovereignty and popular consent. Within Europe, the British, Irish, Dutch, and Nordic economies in the last generation have put themselves through a wringer of sometimes painful reform and renewal, with generally positive results. It's the heart of continental western Europe - France, Belgium, Germany, and Italy - that now lags. The interesting thing is that France now joins Germany in a center-right-leaning trend. Sarkozy's parole favorite is rupture, which means the same in English and French. There are no guarantees that these leaders can accomplish what they need to - Berlusconi's rightward coalition in Italy had some modest accomplishments, nothing dramatic. Perhaps only a consciousness that the hour is late will serve as a spur to change.
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* Best Chirac quote, on the Brits: "The only thing they have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow disease.… You can't trust people who cook as badly as that."

Is not their climate foggy, raw and dull,
On whom, as in despite, the sun looks pale,
Killing their fruit with frowns? Can sodden water,
A drench for sur-rein'd jades, their barley-broth,
Decoct their cold blood to such valiant heat?
- Henry V, III.v

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