Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 31 May 2005

Chirac names de Villepin to replace Raffarin as Prime Minister

President Chirac spoke to the French nation earlier this evening calling for unity in the face of the 'no' vote in the EU referendum last Sunday. As was widely expected, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was required to 'fall on his sword' and has been replaced in this position by Dominique de Villepin. Readers may recall that Monsieur de Villepin was French Foreign Minister at the time of the UN debates about the possibility of further resolutions authorising military action against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein (which France opposed), although more recently he has been Interior Minister. Until I read his biography (see last link above) I had not realised that he is a 'pied noir', having been born in Rabat (Morocco), a country I knew well in the 1970s. Monsieur Chirac seemed to recognise in his speech this evening the disgruntlement of the French citizenry with the high levels of unemployment in France (having been singularly unforthcoming and seemingly uncomprehending on the subject prior to the referendum!), but still seems wedded to the notion of maintaining the 'social model' so valued in France. Whilst understandable from a political-popularity point of view, it is difficult to see how he can pull of this trick plausibly in todays largely globalised economy, assuming France is to remain relatively free and open to outside economic influence, at least from fellow-EU members as is required under the various EU treaties. Quite apart from the wider issue of how all this will allow the country to 'faire face' (face up to/deal with) the equally difficult or more serious problem of competition from China and the other dynamic economies in Asia. It is a dangerous, and probably futile, game to write-off a politician like Chirac - he is a wily and resourceful operator who has survived many setbacks before, but I shall be intrigued to observe how he manages to survive this latest 'little local difficulty'.

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