...Continued from page 1

This was a reflection of centuries of 'top-down' rule in France. This time appears to be over - it disappearedphoto: hot dog stand, champs elysees along with François Mitterrand's presidency - but the managers and rank and file of the RPR party have been unable to grasp the implications.

Real Champs-Elysées hot dog stand differs little from nearby sculpture.

Two leaders, Philippe Seguin and Nicolas Sarkozy, have recently bailed out of the party's leadership position in frustration. Although both are very able men, they were completely unable to unite various factions of the right-wing into a common front.

But now that they have stepped aside, four or five relatively new faces have popped up to enter the contest for the party's leadership. There are some 'old' faces still around too, but these are so mired in the past that they will be condemned to stay there.

It is refreshing to see new faces. The liberals of the right-wing are not far apart from the liberals of the left wing, so new faces count for a lot. They might pronounce new ideas - like the Prime Minister's "France can't control the world economy" statement.

The RPR leadership contest has come right after the summer political meetings. The Socialists, who hold the balance of power, were content to count their government 'successes' and outline the direction of their future legislative ambitions. "We will introduce a new proposition for a law," is useful but not exciting.

'New faces' trying to craft a 'raison d'être' for a future RPR is another matter. One candidate has said the party will no longer simply exist in order to re-elect the President of France.

After a rudderless period, President Jacques Chirac seems to be carving out a new position for the Presidency. Whatever he's doing, he is being rewarded with good standings in the polls - and now leads the Prime Minister by five points, with an approval rating of about 60 percent.

The President had to approve of the retirements of Mr. Seguin and Mr. Sarkozy - so I imagine he is just as interested in the outcome of his party's leadership contest as the French may be.

Meanwhile in Paris

The political landscape of all France is reflected in miniature in Paris. Current mayor Jean Tiberi's self-proclamation as RPR candidate for re-election has loosed off fury from his opponents in the RPR, while the Socialist opposition quietly gloats.

About once a week Le Parisien runs a feature - sometimes a double-spread on pages two and three - which is a calendar listing of all of Mr. Tiberi's coming court dates this fall.

The city's RPR machine is worried that it may be tarred byphoto: techno fans on busstop any brush which touches the mayor - so it is backpeddling to a position independent of the Hôtel de Ville. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with what the RPR is doing nationally.

However, the municipal elections are some time off - and nobody except Jean Tiberi is officially in the running for the mayor's seat. This means that any possible 'new faces' have yet to emerge.

Techno fans behaving normally in Paris yesterday.

This is a distinct disadvantage, which the Socialists are exploiting with glee. For fun, they are suggesting at least a six-pack of big-name Socialist 'elephants' as possible candidates for the mayor's office.

All of these wink and chuckle when asked if they are actively running - all saying the campaign hasn't officially started yet.

You can almost hear the grinding of teeth from behind the locked doors of secret RPR back rooms. Who will be their 'white knight?' Which Socialist 'elephant' will the 'white knight' have to face?

Whoever these two turn out to be, Parisians are going to get a chance to make a choice rather than merely rubber-stamp a decision made from the 'top-down.'

Sports News

Paris' PSG football team is leading the French number one league again, by the skin of its teeth. Either this, or it just struggled to a tie 'win,' which keeps it in close running for the leadership spot. It's one or the other.

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