Thursday, May 03, 2007

le débat

A good summary of the recent major debate between French presidential rivals Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal can be found at the International Herald Tribune website.

During the debate, Royal claimed that Sarkozy's government has accomplished little over the last ten years, to which Sarkozy replied that his government inherited a "catastrophic" situation from the previous government, which was run by Royal's fellow Socialist, François Mitterrand.

I'm fully with Sarko on this count:

"I am in favor of a 35-hour week," Sarkozy insisted. But he said people should have the right to work more if they wanted, especially people with low salaries. "What good is extra time off if at the end of the month there's no money left?" he asked. "Let people make more money if they agree to work more."

In the end, I think Royal's vision of France would plunge the nation into an even worse quagmire than where the French currently find themselves. Rescuing the anemic economy will mean unplugging some of the power of French unions and encouraging the French to adopt a stricter work ethic. Sarkozy shows some desire to attempt this, whereas Royal makes it clear that, in her view, France's problems lie elsewhere. This isn't to say that her social concerns should go unaddressed: she's largely correct that the current government could have done more in the care of its people. The 2005 riots are a stain on this administration.

It would be silly, though, to expect even Sarko to move France completely away from the quasi-socialist paradigm that has dominated its politics for decades. Whatever form the new French government takes, those of us outside of France shouldn't expect a sea change.


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