PARIS – There is something very un-French about the hyperactivity of France’s new president, Nicholas Sarkozy at time when the nation is preparing for its sacred 4-5 week summer vacation, a time when all political and economic activity ceases.
But no rest for the recent winner of France’s most dramatic election in decades. Sarkozy quickly named a cabinet of young, proven ministers who were clearly chosen for their ability to do battle with France’s reactionary, entrenched interests. Sarko just outraged the cozy political establishment by calling for an extraordinary summer session of parliament. Mon dieu, has he no respect?
Having trounced Socialist Segolene Royal by 53-47%, Sarkozy has a clear mandate from dis-satisfied voters to begin implementing the sweeping changes to the economy and society he promised when running. A majority of French, particularly those over 30, believe France has become stagnant and is falling behind the rest of the world. They elected Sarko to shake things up.
Sarko’s mandate may be further reinforced by upcoming June parliamentary elections. French voters often hand control of parliament to the opposition, just to make sure the president does not get too big for his britches. French love leaders on white horses but, paradoxically, they also love tripping them up.
This time, however, polls show voters may hand another major victory to Sarkozy’s Conservatives. If so, this would mean a devastating defeat for both the Socialists and Jean-MarieLe Pen’s far right. Both are counting on parliamentary elections to return them from the political wilderness.
These are the last few peaceful days in charming springtime Paris before Sarkozy’s revolution gets under way. When it does, expect France’s many special interests to come ought fighting in the streets.
Sarko’s first target: the daft 35-hour work created by the Socialists, an egregious example of state-sponsored laziness that has hurt the economy and encouraged malingerers. Sarko and his able new prime minister, Francois Fillion cleverly plan to outflank and undermine this leftist bastion by eliminating taxes and social payments on money earned in excess of 35 hours work.
The Conservatives plan laws mandating minimum service levels for public transit. This move is extremely important. In the past, France’s overly-powerful leftists transport unions have been able to inflict national chaos and usually thwart necessary reforms by paralyzing trains, subways, trucks and air travel.
Other laws to be proposed in this summer’s emergency parliamentary session will be efforts to restrict immigration and crack down on youthful offenders who stage violent street riots. Welfare reform must be undertaken before the social system collapses from under-funding and abuses.
Immigration could make or break Sarko’s government. In-flows of Africans and Mideasters is out of control across western Europe.
At least 10% of France’s population has immigrant roots. Offspring of first and second generation immigrants have produced a mutant, violent tribal subculture that sports tattoos, speaks gutter French, and is totally alienated from French civilization.
Sarko’s job number one is to shut down illegal immigration from Africa and break up the anti-social gangs infesting France’s tough suburbs, known as `banlieu.’
But already the Left is gearing to fight Sarkozy on every reform he plans. Government employs almost half of all French workers. Street demonstrations and strikes, France’s favorite pastime after lunch and l’amour, can be expected to afflict the nation in coming months.
Violent farmer’s groups are arming to prevent Sarko from cutting their obscene subsidies. Teachers, civil servants, and all sorts of other government workers are ready to fight to the last rubber stamp to defend their paid retirement as 58-60, 5 week vacations, and leisurely working habits. They also will be out in the streets raising hell. Street demonstrations brought down the last prime minister, Dominique deVillepain, and even the great Charles DeGaulle.
So, Sarkozy will need the strategic skill of Napoleon, the battlefield courage of Marshall Ney, and the political intrigues of Tallyrand to deal with France’s coming summer of protests.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2007.