Between the elections to the European Parliament in June 1994 and the election of Jacques Chirac to the Presidency of the Fifth Republic on May 7, 1995, the French appeared to be living both in memory and in a mood of evasion. The painful end of François Mitterrand’s second presidential mandate produced a series of uneasy confrontations, both with the recent past—the two seven-year terms of Mitterrand—and with the more distant one—the period when Mitterrand collaborated with the Vichy government. The French press and television have made the most of two fascinating but also rather depressing spectacles: the increasingly bitter duel for the presidency between two former allies, Prime Minister Balladur and former Prime Minister Chirac, and the apparent disintegration of the Socialists after the fall of Michel Rocard, overthrown as leader of the party after his fiasco in the European election.

Then, on April 23 and May 7, the presidential elections brought to power not only Chirac but a new set of leaders who will have to deal with a host of tough issues that have consistently been ignored, and must be addressed if the discontent of a vast part of the citizenry is not to turn into an unmanageable social and political crisis.


The attempts to sum up the Mitterrand era have concentrated at least as much on the man as on his record. Both are full of contradictions. Much of the fascination of Mitterrand for French writers, journalists, and politicians comes from his deliberately cultivated resemblance to many ambitious and complex provincial characters in French novels, from Balzac to Mauriac, and including Barrès and Montherlant. The sinuous course that led him from his early monarchist and reactionary sympathies to a position in the Vichy regime, then into the Resistance, and later to a political career that began on the right and ended on the Socialist left, seems to have been driven, at all times, by a quest for power.

Since 1944 he was also driven by a hostility to General de Gaulle so deep and so constant that he could not even bring himself to mention De Gaulle’s name when he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II in Berlin. Much about Mitterrand remains mysterious. The stoic dignity with which he has fought prostate cancer contrasts with his slippery defense of corrupt subordinates and associates and with his sympathy for people as diversely shady as Bernard Tapie, the failed businessman and soccer-club owner turned corrupt politician, and René Bousquet, the Third Republic prefect who, as Vichy’s police chief, ordered the deportation of Jews. Strange behavior for a president whose contempt for money reflects both far right and Socialist anti-capitalism, and who claims many Jewish friends. To one of them, Elie Wiesel, in a book full of banal pieties, Mitterrand confessed that he sees himself as “the graveyard of remembrance.”1 He has, he says, a duty to think about the dead, a noble-sounding thought but one that contrasts with his own lack of vision about the future of his country. He also mentions his desire for “reconciliation,” when it is clear that many of his maneuvers as head of the Socialist Party have had a divisive effect, including his attempts to undermine such rivals as Rocard, and to divide the right by indirectly promoting the National Front of Le Pen.

Some of his policies have been positive and important. At home, he cleverly and peacefully demolished the power of the Communist Party through his strategy of “union of the Left,” which had originally made many democratic progressives uneasy. Paradoxically, in view of his early opposition to De Gaulle’s “authoritarian” Constitution for the Fifth Republic, he did much to consolidate the Fifth Republic’s main institutions. Beginning in 1981, he showed that, after twenty-three years of right-wing rule, “alternation” could be smooth; he then negotiated a prickly but workable “cohabitation” with right-wing cabinets after the right won the legislative elections of 1986 and 1993. (Indeed, the institutions of the Fifth Republic allow for a far more effective cooperation between the president and a hostile parliamentary majority than those of the US whenever, say, a Democratic president confronts a Republican Congress.) Mitterrand can also take credit for some historic reforms: the deregulation of radio stations, the abolition of the death penalty, and the 1982 law decentralizing state power more effectively than any other French leader has done since the Revolution.

Abroad, Mitterrand made two major contributions. The first—squarely in the Gaullist tradition—was to give high priority to Franco-German cooperation. This became clear with his famous Bundestag speech of 1983 advocating the acceptance by the German Parliament of NATO’s new missile deployments (“the pacifists are in the West, the missiles in the East”). The second achievement, breaking with the Gaullist heritage, was his persistent effort, from 1984 on, with the help of Jacques Delors in Brussels, to turn the Common Market into a genuine European Union. He removed many of the obstacles to a single free market, accepted a considerable expansion of majority rule within the European Union, and pushed for a single currency. French cooperation with the UN and with NATO also increased under him, as became apparent during the Gulf War and in Bosnia.


But the dark side of the record is no less important. French policy in Africa remained a preserve of presidential discretion, and Mitterrand chose to support African despots, whether in Chad, Gabon, or Rwanda. His preference for reacting cautiously even in periods of momentous change kept the former Soviet satellites outside the European Community’s door and contributed to the West’s lamentable policy in Bosnia; the once promising idea of a Franco-German “Euro Corps” remains largely symbolic. His greatest failings, however, were at home. He went much further than De Gaulle had in bringing a “monarchical” style to the French presidency and transforming his own party into a tool of the president. In 1983, he had the French government shift from the old Socialist doctrine of state-controlled economic and social change to a new policy emphasizing financial “rigor” and industrial competitiveness. But Mitterrand never bothered to try to get the Socialist Party to adjust its ideas to that change and to give up its old Socialist commitments to the expansion of state agencies and to nationalization. The party thus displayed a depressing split between its archaic and verbal radicalism and its resignation to the new status quo emphasizing the importance of efficient management and competitiveness abroad. The Socialist Party bosses became enmeshed in financial scandals and the party itself became little more than a tangled web of personal factions manipulated from the Elysée palace.

The party was also more and more out of touch with the so-called “forces vives“—voluntary associations, unions, the women and the young—which Michel Rocard’s “second left” had hoped would regenerate the old centralized and Jacobin party. Except for a disastrous attempt, in 1984, to diminish support for subsidized Catholic schools, no serious effort was made to reform the deteriorating French educational system, particularly its overcrowded universities. The Socialists resisted right-wing xenophobic pressures to treat immigrants harshly, but they failed to educate the public about the realities of immigration. They could have shown that immigration was not responsible for high unemployment and that the integration of many of the Muslim immigrants was quietly proceeding; instead they adopted much of the vocabulary of the right in emphasizing the fight against illegal immigration.

Above all, Mitterrand failed to deal with rising unemployment. At the end of his second term, 12 percent of France’s labor force was without jobs, 1.2 million people had been out of work for more than a year. Many blamed the policy of the “franc fort” (a pun on Frankfurt, the seat of the Bundesbank) that ties the franc to the Deutschmark within the European Monetary System. After German unification, this link made French economic policy dependent on the German Central Bank, whose high-interest-rate policy was dictated by the purely German need to prevent any inflationary effects that the costly rehabilitation of East Germany might have. While this policy of linkage was accepted both by the Socialist and conservative governments that alternated in power between 1983 and 1995, it was initiated by Mitterrand, and was challenged far less among Socialists than among the Gaullists, especially by Philippe Séguin, the president of the National Assembly—and, occasionally, Chirac. One great irony of Mitterrand’s Socialist presidency was that the power of French labor declined while he was in office, both in employment and in the effectiveness of the unions. A second irony was that employment and general prosperity were replaced as the chief goals of French economic policy by a commitment to keep prices and exchange rates stable.2


For a while, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, some French writers celebrated the emergence of a “Republic of the Center”3 in which, thanks to the decline of communism and to the modernization of French conservatism, the sharp old cleavage between the forces of the right and left had lost most of its ideological force. Both right and left now acknowledged the limits on the freedom of choice available to a middle-size nation-state whose exports and imports had risen to more than one fifth of the gross domestic product (doubling since 1962), and which had to submit to the pressures of competition in a global capitalist economy as well as to those of the European Community. The smoothness of the “cohabitation” of Mitterrand and Balladur seemed to vindicate this analysis.

But the European elections of 1994, in which the Socialist list of Michel Rocard and the conservative list led by Dominique Baudis, the mayor of Toulouse, obtained, together, only 40 percent of the vote, was a rude shock. It led a sociologist, Emmanuel Todd, to offer a new analysis, suggesting that France was still divided along class lines—between a middle class with a variety of political allegiances and a more homogeneous “popular class” consisting of blue- and white-collar workers with low incomes. The 1994 vote expressed the distress of the popular class, which had felt neglected by the more well-to-do citizens and especially by the French professional and business elites.4 Moreover, Todd suggested, the popular class, feeling betrayed by the Socialist Party, had now deserted it; and it had also largely turned against the policy of European unification, which the French, in the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty setting up the European Union had, in September 1992, approved by a margin of only 1 percent.


This meant that, in the coming presidential elections, the members of the popular class were likely to be decisive. Todd described Balladur as well as Jacques Delors (seen at the time he was writing as the likely Socialist candidate) as the favorites of the middle classes. It was therefore in Chirac’s interest to look for voters not in the center (which Balladur had anyhow been cultivating) but among the broad mass of poorer citizens. Chirac, the leader of the neo-Gaullist RPR, was, he said, “closer to the popular and democratic ideal type.”

Chirac’s campaign followed Todd’s suggestion—if only because Balladur had so clearly pitched his appeal to the middle classes.5 From June 1994 onward, Chirac, with the help of Séguin, spoke of the need for a new “Republican pact” that would give priority to the fight both against unemployment and against “exclusion,” the new French catchword that describes not only the homeless and the long-term unemployed but the very poor: altogether several million people. Chirac was skillful in demanding that the state take a more energetic part in the economy (the French, unlike the Americans, told their pollsters that they wanted more, not less, state action) while rejecting such “left”-sounding measures as public-works programs, which were recommended by the Socialist candidate, Lionel Jospin. Chirac promised to rely primarily on private enterprise to bring about an economic recovery, in accordance with the advice of Alain Madelin, his adviser from Giscard d’Estaing’s Republican Party.

The first ballot, on April 23, demonstrated the continuing disaffection of a large part of the electorate, not with politics itself (participation was close to 80 percent), but with the “established” parties of the center left (Socialists) and center right (the Gaullist RPR and the loose UDF Confederation),6 although Jospin, whose candidacy at first seemed hopeless, actually won by a small margin. In fact, Jospin plus Chirac and Balladur received less than 63 percent of the vote. In the first round, Chirac’s gamble on rallying the poorer voters therefore did not pay off. He did well among men from eighteen to twenty-four years of age (32 percent), among peasants (29 percent) and artisans and small shopkeepers (28 percent); but only 15 percent of workers and 20 percent of the unemployed voted for him, while 24 percent of the unemployed voted for Jospin and 18 percent for Le Pen. The candidates of the “discontented” parties on the far right and the far left together received 45 percent of the votes of the unemployed, 41 percent of the workers, and 58 percent of all those who consider themselves underprivileged. (They included the Communist Robert Hue, the Trotskyite Arlette Laguiller, the ecologist Dominique Voynet, the reactionary exponent of “family values” Philippe de Villiers, and Le Pen.) The only good news for Chirac was his progress (compared to 1988) among young men, who have been gradually moving to the right and were more attracted by his activism than by Balladur’s complacency.

Balladur showed a striking lack of political skill—after having led in the polls during all the months that preceded the official announcement of his candidacy late in January 1995. His statements were cautious and boring (reminiscent of Raymond Barre’s in 1988), and he oddly announced that he would run a “happy” campaign in a country that obviously was anything but happy. He was much embarrassed by a wire-tapping scandal linked to his interior minister Charles Pasqua; but did twice as well as Chirac among practicing Catholics, among men and women over sixty-five, and among those who consider themselves “privileged.”

The greatest shock was not the success of Jospin, who, contrary to all the polls, came out slightly ahead of Chirac with 23.5 percent of the vote. It was the success of the xenophobic Le Pen, who received 15 percent of the vote, a little more than in 1988, and who compensated for some losses in the south with big gains in Alsace (especially in villages that have no experience with immigration, but where many voters seem to feel that the “mess in Paris” is an insult to their patriotism) as well as in the cities of the north, with its crisis-ridden, old industries, and in the Paris suburbs, full of tensions over immigrants. Le Pen had a relatively strong vote from every class (except among the professions and among upper-level management), and from every age group; but he did less well among women than among men. He received more than 10 percent of the vote in twenty-eight out of thirty-five cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, and thus could have a decisive effect on the coming municipal elections.

The second ballot became a straight left/right confrontation between Jospin and Chirac. Many commentators, after the first ballot, had written that Jospin would be handicapped by a left/right ratio of 40 percent to 60 percent—the 60 percent being the total obtained by Chirac, Balladur, Villiers, and Le Pen. However, Jospin got 47.5 percent of the vote. He was helped in part by a campaign to bring out people who had not voted on April 23 (half a million more came out on May 7), in part by the fact that the National Front’s heterogeneous electorate split after being told by Le Pen that he favored neither candidate: his more fervent supporters put blank votes into the ballot box (as he had said he would himself), but one third of the others voted for Jospin. While the first ballot demonstrated the failure of Emmanuel Todd’s proposed strategy, the second only partially confirmed his opinion about the importance of class (and in any case the “popular” class favored Jospin). But 43 percent of the industrial workers and 42 percent of the unemployed—both large figures—and 49 percent of all white-collar workers also voted for Chirac.

A major determinant was religion. Chirac received the votes of 74 percent of practicing Catholics and 59 percent of nonpracticing Catholics. Of the people who feel “well off,” 71 percent voted for Chirac, as well as 58 percent of those who say they belong to the upper-middle classes.7 It is far from a simple picture: religion and class mattered, but so did highly personal judgments about the dogged, decent character of Jospin and the patent, almost boyish, eagerness of Chirac to show that he was a man of the people who deserved his long-awaited chance. What emerges is both the urgent need for Chirac to act in such a way as to reduce the fragmentation and discontent revealed on April 23, and to justify the distinctly guarded confidence of the many poorer workers who preferred him to his Socialist rival.


During the campaign, Chirac made dozens of promises to a great many different social groups, implying to some that he was ambivalent about France’s commitment to European monetary union—until the resulting drop in the value of the franc forced him to say he would continue the old policy of linkage to the Deutschmark. Now, choices have to be made, and in circumstances Prime Minister Juppé has called more difficult than he and Chirac expected.

Chirac insists that the fight against unemployment is the government’s supreme priority. He doesn’t say so, but it is clear that since the end of the 1970s both conservative and socialist governments deliberately chose policies that would produce high unemployment. They believed that France, in order to be competitive in world, and especially in European, markets, had to purge itself of its inflationary tendencies through a tight monetary and credit policy. Industries were given incentives to increase their profitability and their productivity. Having been freed, since 1986, of the old regulations that made it difficult for them to fire workers, they got rid of hundreds of thousands of them—in the private sector only, and mainly at the expense of young and unskilled employees. Wages were no longer tied to the rate of inflation, and rising unemployment helped dampen demands for higher pay. In order to avoid explosions of worker resentment, more than half of the increase in net revenues was spent on wage increases, and only 5 percent on the creation of new jobs;8 the comparable German figures are 20 percent and 20 percent, the American ones 20 percent and 43 percent. Except for restaurant jobs, the expansion of service occupations has not been able to absorb the surplus of labor released from the industrial sector.

France suffers from deep “structural” impediments to reducing unemployment. The fairly high minimum wage (SMIC) means that there are no legal ways of hiring young and unskilled workers at low pay. When the Balladur government proposed to put an end to this, young people took to the streets and the prime minister caved in. That also means that workers have fewer incentives to rise in an enterprise’s hierarchy, since the minimum wage represents 75 percent of the average wage, compared with 40 percent in the US. The heavy social-security charges levied on employers also slowed down new job creation.

France has fallen between two stools: it has neither the advantages of the US model, with its weak unions and deregulated market, and consequently high rate of new job creation, although often for temporary and badly paid jobs. Nor does it have the advantages of the German model, in which the unions cooperate with business to train workers in the plants and keep down wage increases so as to limit the number of the unemployed. France has weak unions (indeed, many of the larger enterprises have none), and a relatively small number of businesses with more than ten employees (less than 10 percent of the total).9 State expenditures absorb 54 percent of the gross domestic product, draining savings away from industry—while unemployment has dried up much consumer demand. Big investments, both private and public, in research and development have helped firms modernize, but often by replacing men and women with machines. A major state effort to increase the quality and quantity of technical education in schools and universities has not compensated for the frequent inadequacy of training and retraining in industrial plants.

A recent report by a distinguished committee set up by Balladur and headed by Alain Minc (a businessman and prolific writer on public issues) persuasively points to three breakdowns in the French political economy: in employment, in social solidarity, and in any shared sense of “meaning”—“the collapse of ideologies,” which makes the “excluded” and the jobless feel all the more estranged from society.10 But finding adequate remedies for any of these failings will be a very difficult task for several reasons.

First, many of the measures proposed by Chirac and Juppé have been tried before, with little success. In recent years every government has tried to “bribe” enterprises into hiring workers. Chirac says he wants “initiative-employment contracts” (CIE) that offer firms willing to hire unemployed workers an exemption from all social security charges, plus 2,000 francs per worker. He also proposes financial help to enterprises that hire young workers at or above the minimum wage. This policy has not been very effective in the past.

As might be expected, the experts disagree about the root cause of the employment crisis. Is it the high-interest-rate policy? The new government has not challenged it. Is it, as the Minc report suggests, the high level of French wages? The new plan proposes, on the contrary, to raise the minimum wage in order to increase consumer demand. Is it the weight of social-security charges and of taxes on corporations? It is still not clear how much relief from such payments the government will offer, and corporate taxes may rise. Is it that French public and private enterprises tend to be rigid organizations, led by distant bosses who don’t listen to the demands of disorganized workers and staff, as the sociologist Michel Crozier argues?11 The technocratic approach of Juppé does not address this problem.

Another reason for skepticism is the head-on collision between two tendencies. The first is the government’s intention to “prime the pump” by subsidizing not only employment but also retired citizens, the homeless, and families (all of whom will receive a new allowance when their first child is born). The second is the government’s need to keep the budget deficit (already 6 percent of the GDP) from rising—indeed, to reduce it to 3 percent to meet the criterion that states have to meet so as to be able to launch the European Monetary Union before the year 2000. A larger deficit would weaken the franc and jeopardize the policy of European monetary unification. A weaker franc still tied to the Deutschemark would make any lowering of interest rates impossible.

Having committed himself to the EMU, Chirac is trying to combine domestic measures encouraging quick economic growth with the deficit reduction insisted on by Alain Madelin, his finance minister. Juppé’s program listed new expenditures but no new revenues (as critics pointed out, what would the right-wing politicians have said if a Socialist prime minister had done that?)—and this led to a weakening of the franc. It is now clear that after the municipal elections this summer the government will propose an increase in the rates of the value-added tax (TVA). It may have to be steep in view of the shortfall in revenues so far this year and the rising cost of the welfare system, a joint creation of the left and right since 1945 to which the French remain deeply attached. This increase in the TVA also risks further cutting back employment, for it will both reduce consumer demand (especially since it falls hardest on the people with lower incomes) and will have inflationary effects for businesses. The managers may be tempted to fire more workers and then perhaps to hire instead the “cheaper” ones who benefit from the CIE.

Juppé had initially suggested that economic growth had to come first, a balanced budget later; a rise in employment, he said, would increase state revenues. But the recent performance of the economy shows that this is not so, and Madelin argues with some cogency that immediate deficit reduction is necessary to maintain French competitiveness. The French, in effect, are hearing the same debates they did in 1983, when Mitterrand made his fateful break with the Union of the Left’s program, and during the 1992 controversy on the Maastricht Treaty. Certainly, the choices would be less stark if the current economic recovery accelerated, producing more jobs, but the slowdowns in the American and German economies are a bad omen.

The critics of the “franc fort” policy have argued that it sacrificed French prosperity and employment to a Franco-German alliance increasingly dominated by Germany. But, as in 1983, the inflation and deficits resulting from a weaker currency would mean the end of France’s surplus in its balance of trade and provoke a crisis in the balance of payments. A collapse of the European Monetary System would mean a major unraveling of the single European market, and leave it even more under German control. Chirac, however “nationalist” he may have sounded in the late 1970s, has reasserted the primacy of Franco-German collaboration. But the effects are likely to be both rough times ahead in the battle against unemployment and rough choices in European policy. The EU officials are trying to deregulate public monopolies throughout Europe in order to make markets more fairly competitive. They want to dismantle the monopolies enjoyed by French state enterprises in energy, railways, airlines, and telecommunications, which have provoked labor unrest and Jacobin indignation in France.

Chirac’s desire for a more active and successful European foreign policy seems likely to collide with his increasing impatience with the European, NATO, and UN debacle in Bosnia. After the recent humiliation of UNPROFOR, the French are now putting all their emphasis on better protection for their hopeless mission, not on better protection of the Bosnians they are supposed to feed and keep safe. Chirac’s opposition to American proposals for a kind of transatlantic NAFTA may also divide the members of the European Union.

Moreover, especially with more members, the byzantine institutions of the Union will have to be reshaped. The French will have to find some middle way between German pressures for a more federal European setup (modeled on the Federal Republic’s) and the British preference for European institutions in which the larger nations will have a veto. In any case, the future of the Monetary Union is far from assured. Few states are likely to meet the German preconditions on such matters as low budget deficits and controlled public debts. And there is at the same time growing resistance in Germany to the loss of control that a “Europeanization” of the Bundesbank and the replacement of the Deutschemark by the new ecu would entail.

As if all this was not enough, President Chirac will also, sooner or later, have to deal with fundamental structures of French society that have become obstacles to progress and causes of resentment against the political leaders. Corruption is now a daily scandal, with dozens of politicians and businessmen on both the left and right facing trials. The line that separates shady deals to finance political parties and campaigns from similarly shady deals for personal profit is often very thin. Judicial officials are currently investigating several people close to Chirac and to his key ministers. He will, according to some recent reports, be tempted to tighten executive control over the French judiciary—which has never been fully independent. What is needed is a set of drastic measures cutting the links between the executive and the judicial branch.

The system of French education, with its growing segregation by class and national origin, seems increasingly remote from the ideal of equality of opportunity.12 But any serious reform is blocked by the resistance of teachers’ unions and students, neither of whom want the closer relation between educational programs and market demands that conservative governments have, with moderate success, tried to pursue. Juppé has announced that there will be a referendum on educational reform, but the text that will be submitted to the voters will result from a long process of consultations that may well make it ineffectual.

Any such reform ought to bring about greater autonomy for schools, colleges, and universities, and more transfers of authority for planning and financing education to the regions, departments, and municipalities. But after Mitterrand gave more power to regional governments in the early Eighties, further plans for decentralization have tended to founder in France. Power becomes confused among central, regional, and local governments, and decentralization produces a class of local politicians remarkably similar to, indeed often identical with, the national political leaders—since a French deputy can also be a mayor or regional councilor. The public has little involvement in local government, and the elected “notables” have shown as much disdain for voluntary associations as have the bureaucrats and politicians in Paris. It is true that there has been an increase in the number of local groups concerned with such matters as culture, sports, and health, but they derive 60 percent of their resources from the state.

The biggest source of blocage remains, as Michel Crozier has reminded us, the system that trains French elites and guarantees to the bright students who have graduated from the grandes écoles dominant positions in the bureaucracy, in politics, and in the major enterprises. Chirac and Juppé, like Giscard, are énarques of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA). The ENA, the Ecole Polytechnique, and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales provide 60 percent of French CEOs—only 4 percent have risen from within their enterprises.13 It is a small, incestuous, and monopolistic world. These schools, says Crozier, prepare their students “for personal success, not for their future responsibilities.”14 The concern for one’s career prevails over expertise, and the quest for “solutions” over the need to acquire deep understanding of problems and to listen to the grievances of those below the top. The lack of any connection between much of the electorate and the political class is one result of this system. Its worst features were shown in the mismanagement that led to the costly financial collapse of the Crédit Lyonnais, France’s biggest public bank. But despite Chirac’s criticism of the technocrats and énarques early in his campaign, there is little evidence that he is willing to touch the untouchable.

The crises revealed by unemployment and exclusion have implications that will be hard for the French leaders to accept. France needs a much wider system of elite recruitment—more competition among improved schools and universities and less competition for access to a few select places that provide relatively privileged young people with guaranteed elite jobs for life. France also needs to encourage more vigorous voluntary associations (for health care, better housing, cultural affairs, etc.) and interest groups (from labor unions and councils of businessmen to agencies for consumer and environmental protection). Only through such networks will the country be able to replace the “passive welfare state” that does little more than compensate people for temporary losses of individual income.15

Whether Chirac, a perfect example himself of the traditional French selection process, will understand this is not certain. He is known for his unpredictability, for his reliance on contradictory and shifting advisers, for the ambitious and relentless energy that drove him to power. He has been described as an “authoritarian Radical” 16—a reference to the old, centrist Radical Party, socially and fiscally conservative but ideologically “Republican” and Jacobin, whose strength in rural and small-town France kept it in power almost continually between the beginning of this century and the fall of the third Republic. Chirac has more of a sense of popular needs and aspirations than most of his colleagues. He has recruited a group of younger politicians and technocrats, including an unusually large number of women, to run the government. What he has to decide, in the long run, is whether he wants to be, above all, a skillful conservative manager, like his protector and promoter Pompidou, or whether he wants to complete the deeper transformation of French institutions that was begun by his patron saint, on whose grave he went to kneel on his first day in office, Charles de Gaulle.17

June 15, 1995

This Issue

July 13, 1995