A New Maginot Line

With the French raging against the demands of globalization, real reform could become impossible

French President Jacques Chirac thought he could win a fresh mandate for his beleaguered government by calling elections a year early. Instead, he has plunged his country into political chaos. In the first round of voting on May 25, French citizens threatened to erase Chirac's 175-seat parliamentary majority and perhaps even install his opponent, Socialist Lionel Jospin, as Prime Minister. More ominous, they voiced their disgust with a stalled economy and a reform plan that represents France's only current hope of turning from a hyper-regulated social democracy into a competitive world power.

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