Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What to expect from the new president of France

From John Fund at the Opinion Journal:
Can Sarkozy reform France?

Conservative Nikolas Sarkozy's comfortable victory over Socialist Ségolène Royal in France's presidential race may indicate that Europe's slowest-growing major economy is finally ready for some change.


By French standards Mr. Sarkozy is positively effusive about the need for the two countries to emphasize their points of agreement. "My dedication to our relationship with America if well known and has earned me substantial criticism in France," he said. "But let me tell you something, I'm not a coward. I embrace that friendship. I'm proud of the friendship . . . and I proclaim it proudly." He then went on to say that France's foreign policy had often suffered from an arrogant and insensitive approach, a clear reference to the haughty attitudes of retiring president Jacques Chirac and his prime minister, Dominique de Villepin.

But the clearest break that Mr. Sarkozy represents from leaders like Mr. Chirac is in his background. The son of a Hungarian immigrant, he has always been viewed as an outsider by French elites. He failed to attend the prestigious National School of Administration, where almost every leading figure in French politics, including purported populist Ségolène Royal, went.

It is difficult for Americans to appreciate just how removed from the French people the nation's bureaucratic elite is. Its arrogance is mind-boggling.


Mr. Sarkozy acknowledges he is now part of the elites of French society, but he pledges he will govern in a way that is beyond their interests. "If I'm elected," he told reporters before yesterday's balloting, "it won't be the press, the polls, the elites who chose me. It will have been the people." His clearest break with much of French elite opinion came last week when he made a dramatic speech about a "moral crisis" the nation entered in 1968, when the "moral and intellectual relativism" embodied by the 1968 student revolt that helped topple President Charles de Gaulle from power the next year. Today, many philosophers and media commentators routinely pay homage to "the élan of 1968" and lament that the revolutionary spirit of the time did not succeed in transforming bourgeois French society more than it did.

Mr. Sarkozy took on that '60s nostalgia. He labelled Ms. Royal and her supporters the descendants of the nihilists of 1968, and even appealed to France's "silent majority" to repudiate the false lessons of that period. He claimed that too many Royal backers continue to hesitate in reacting against riots by "thugs, troublemakers and fraudsters." He declared this Sunday's election would settle the "question of whether the heritage of May '68 should be perpetuated or if it should be liquidated once and for all." [...]

(bold emphasis mine) Amen to that! I don't expect miracles from this; France will still be France. But that doesn't mean the situation won't improve at all. Just as Angela Merkel of Germany has been an improvement over her predecessor, Sarkozy may well be an improvement over his. Lets hope so!

He certainly faces a lot of challenges. Already violent riots and arson have begun, as predicted (or threatened?) by socialist loser Segolene Royal. Many more photos of the riots can be found at the flickr.com link below:

Welcome to Sarkoland

Click on the link and look what Sarkozy will have to deal with.
The legacy of 1968. I don't envy him.


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