Monday, May 22, 2006

Is It Just Chirac, or Is France Terminally Ungovernable?

Charles De Gaulle once said that it is impossible to govern a nation with 500 different kinds of cheese, or four hundred ways to make an omelette, or something. Now a French book wonders if France's current stagnation results simply because Chirac is an ancient fraud and mountebank, or does the problem lie deeper?
The Financial Times has a book review:
In The Tragedy of the President, France's literary sensation of the season, Franz-Olivier Giesbert, makes a powerful case that Jacques Chirac's 11-year presidency has been a disaster. The veteran journalist argues that one man's personal tragedy is now ending in political tragedy for his nation. Mr Chirac's failure to tackle France's deep-seated problems has left his country demoralised, disoriented and fearful of the future. The 73-year-old president, now imprisoned in miserable isolation in the Elys?e palace, has come to personify the decline of France and the political impotence of its leadership.

But the alarming question indirectly raised (although never answered) by Giesbert's book is whether any other president could have done better. Is French society reformable? Or is it, as Mr Chirac appears to have concluded through brutal experience, fatally resistant to change? Perhaps all that can be hoped for – as the neighbouring British once believed – is the orderly management of decline.

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