Jacques’s back in the news,
this time at The Economist
Discontent has been fed by disillusion with the governing elite. The resignation of Hervé Gaymard as finance minister, over a vast apartment he had rented at taxpayers’ expense, has worsened the disconnect between the political class and the electorate. That Mr Gaymard could not grasp his mistake only confirmed that impression. Confidence in Mr Chirac slid to 36% in March, down from 41% in January, according to a poll by TNS-Sofres. Confidence in his prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, stands at just 28%.
Given this political atmosphere, the government is keen, ahead of May 29th, to avoid anything that even hints at confrontation. Already, the education minister, François Fillon, has caved in to demands of school pupils, agreeing not to modify the baccalauréat school-leaving exam, as he had originally proposed. Mr Raffarin has firmly rejected the European Commission’s services directive, a measure seen in France as evidence of the takeover of Europe by Anglo-Saxon free-marketeers (see article).
Will their despondency affect voters’ judgment of the EU constitution? So far, polls suggest that they will say yes, but by an ever-shrinking margin: 58%, says a March poll by Ifop, down from 61% in February. Indeed, this erosion, which mirrors that ahead of the narrow 1992 vote in favour of the Maastricht treaty, explains Mr Chirac’s decision to hold the referendum earlier than he had planned.
Paris had its own version of a Potemkin village this week: while the Olympic Committee toured and was feasted, the hoi-polloi endured a one-day public transportation strike, which caused a huge traffic jam; the OC was then bussed and the highway was closed to traffic so the OC wouldn’t see the traffic jam.