Sunday, March 28, 2004

France Turns to the Left

The results are in from the second round of the French regional elections and it's bad news for Chirac's centre-right government. Prior to the election, Chirac's party held 14 regional councils, but that number appears to have been cut down to just one or two. And the benficiaries are the socialists and other leftists parties (and when I say left, I mean really left) who polled over 50% of the vote.

This is certainly bad news for Prime Minister Raffarin who could end up being sacked. The only problem is, the most likely contender to replace him is Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, a man who wants not just the Prime Minister's post, but Jacques Chirac's job as well. Unfortunately for Chirac, Sarkozy continues to be the most popular politician in France. It should also be pointed out that Sarkozy is also far more pro-American than Chirac.

The results are being interpreted as a protest against the reforms the Chirac government is trying to introduce in order to modernize and streamline the bulky French social welfare system. If this interpretation is correct, and I suspect it is, this can only be bad news for France and Europe overall. France and Germany are both in need of serious reform. Their economies are stagnant and their governments can't afford the welfare systems they put in place after World War II. This, like so many other areas, is another example of how dated and insular Europeans are becoming. On so many topics, they seem to want to stick their heads in the sand. And even worse is the fact that there aren't many statesmen in Europe worthy of the name who might pull their heads out.

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