A new direction for France?

Nicolas Sarkozy's inauguration today may mark a turning point in French politics. The obstacles, however, are formidable.

Following the second round of the presidential elections, violent pandemonium ensued across many French cities. Over a thousand cars have so far been set ablaze across France along with a French flag. Storefronts were smashed and walls were scrawled with "Sarko fascist" slogans and variations on the same theme. The rioting is now under control and in abeyance. Vandalism of such order cannot be excused away as adolescent exuberance; these pyromaniac barbarians, reveling in their destructive behavior, are making a statement: they were not satisfied with the election results and are not satisfied with anything. They wanted the Socialist candidate to win, even though Royal lost by a sizable margin. They want the elections results reversed so that she wins and if they don't get their way, more cars will be torched and anarchy will prevail. These insurrectionists, with scant knowledge of history, must think that France is back in the 18th century and that they can revolt against the standing monarchy and overthrow its regime. Well, good luck.

Many of the left wing youths were voting for the first time, not for someone as much as against someone. They have little understanding of universal suffrage. In their distinctive inarticulate manner they shriek out their grievances between barrages of cobblestones, bottles and signposts. Their creed is to take all they can from the State and render nothing but vandalism and hostility in return. This cannot go on. The clock is ticking. Something has to be done before a revolution develops or a civil war breaks out.

This post election vandalism is not triggered by inherent social consequences, though they certainly are a fundamental aggravating factor, but as a protest against the election results. They are plainly defying the will of the majority and are treating France with contempt, along with the forces of order. The usual response by a state is to restore law with a massive police presence meeting violence with violence until one side prevails over the other. While such tactics are usually successful to temporally quell the violence it signifies a weakening of state authority and its ability to govern.

Hopefully, Sarkozy's government will counteract such a reflexive consequence by establishing new legislation or by implementing existing legislation with more resolve; after all, a government that can't enforce its laws squanders its credibility all too quickly. Hopefully, at the same time as they foster reconciliation and reassurance by respecting minority opinion, the new government will uphold the rule of law. Hopefully, under Sarkozy's command, the politicians will understand that they can't solve non-economic problems by just using economic solutions, throwing money at social problems is not the answer. Hopefully, President Sarkozy is aware that France's outsized, unwieldy government has gone beyond the consent of the people, strangling opportunity and suppressing freedom. Hopefully, France's new government will provide opportunity, favor productivity and uphold its motto: "Liberté", egalité et fraternité".

Peter B. Martin has lived in France since 1974.
Nicolas Sarkozy's inauguration today may mark a turning point in French politics. The obstacles, however, are formidable.

Following the second round of the presidential elections, violent pandemonium ensued across many French cities. Over a thousand cars have so far been set ablaze across France along with a French flag. Storefronts were smashed and walls were scrawled with "Sarko fascist" slogans and variations on the same theme. The rioting is now under control and in abeyance. Vandalism of such order cannot be excused away as adolescent exuberance; these pyromaniac barbarians, reveling in their destructive behavior, are making a statement: they were not satisfied with the election results and are not satisfied with anything. They wanted the Socialist candidate to win, even though Royal lost by a sizable margin. They want the elections results reversed so that she wins and if they don't get their way, more cars will be torched and anarchy will prevail. These insurrectionists, with scant knowledge of history, must think that France is back in the 18th century and that they can revolt against the standing monarchy and overthrow its regime. Well, good luck.

Many of the left wing youths were voting for the first time, not for someone as much as against someone. They have little understanding of universal suffrage. In their distinctive inarticulate manner they shriek out their grievances between barrages of cobblestones, bottles and signposts. Their creed is to take all they can from the State and render nothing but vandalism and hostility in return. This cannot go on. The clock is ticking. Something has to be done before a revolution develops or a civil war breaks out.

This post election vandalism is not triggered by inherent social consequences, though they certainly are a fundamental aggravating factor, but as a protest against the election results. They are plainly defying the will of the majority and are treating France with contempt, along with the forces of order. The usual response by a state is to restore law with a massive police presence meeting violence with violence until one side prevails over the other. While such tactics are usually successful to temporally quell the violence it signifies a weakening of state authority and its ability to govern.

Hopefully, Sarkozy's government will counteract such a reflexive consequence by establishing new legislation or by implementing existing legislation with more resolve; after all, a government that can't enforce its laws squanders its credibility all too quickly. Hopefully, at the same time as they foster reconciliation and reassurance by respecting minority opinion, the new government will uphold the rule of law. Hopefully, under Sarkozy's command, the politicians will understand that they can't solve non-economic problems by just using economic solutions, throwing money at social problems is not the answer. Hopefully, President Sarkozy is aware that France's outsized, unwieldy government has gone beyond the consent of the people, strangling opportunity and suppressing freedom. Hopefully, France's new government will provide opportunity, favor productivity and uphold its motto: "Liberté", egalité et fraternité".

Peter B. Martin has lived in France since 1974.