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May 31, 2005
Chirac Sacks Raffarin, Names De Villepin As PM

Jacques Chirac, after his humiliating defeat this weekend on the proposed EU constitution he helped create and heavily promoted, responded by firing his Prime Minister and naming a familiar anti-American as his replacement. Dominuque de Villepin gained notoriety here in the United States by reversing course at the UN on Iraq after assuring Colin Powell that France would stand by the US:

Promotion of the loyal Villepin could be a sign Chirac intends to fight back after the referendum humiliation and keep open his options for seeking a third term in 2007.

A career diplomat, aristocrat and sometime poet, Villepin won applause at the United Nations and plaudits at home on the right and the left for opposing the U.S.-led war in Iraq, but angered and frustrated Washington.

Washington and Paris have since been rebuilding ties.

Raffarin's departure was expected, as he has not been a popular PM in France during a period of economic stagnation. Unemployment is now over 10% and the budget shortfalls caused Raffarin to insist on some market-based reforms, none of which won him any friends in the streets of Paris. De Villepin will likely return to the common socialist approach that landed France in the mess it is today, an approach encouraged by the French 'non' to the EU charter.

Most people had expected Chirac to name Nicolas Sarkozy, the leader of the right-wing UMP, as PM. However, Sarkozy wants even more market-based reforms than Raffarin to cure France of its economic ills, and the Chirac government clearly has no stomach for that fight. Instead, Chirac wants to appease the madding crowds by giving them what they crave -- a sense of French superiority as embodied by the poet-diplomat de Villepin, as well as a healthy dose of anti-Americanism. The BBC notes in contrast that he embodies the kind of elitism that French voters rejected in the referendum, and that his unfamiliarity with elections and his difficult relationship with Parliament will also handicap him in the weeks ahead.

De Villepin may be enough to keep calls for Chirac's resignation at bay in the short run. However, the underlying economic problems in France won't magically disappear through Gallic pride alone, and until the French start rethinking their Ponzi-schemed economic system, it's guaranteed to get worse. By the time Chirac runs again in 2007 -- probably against Sarkozy -- even the French may have figured that out.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 31, 2005 5:57 AM

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» Bye Bye Miss European Pie... from Secure Liberty
..took my Peugot to levy but the levy was dry. It's a beautiul day in the neighborhood of nations, but not in the neighborhood of overreaching, massive, nanny state fools who want to decide everything for you. The French, often vilified, never duplic... [Read More]

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» Frog in the Boiling Pot from Hard Starboard
It was not a good weekend for French President Black Jacques Chirac. First, he was humiliated when his indolent people whom he thought he could simultaneously bulldoze and hornswoggle rejected his precious masterpiece of a European Union constitut... [Read More]

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