President Calls for Reduced Term

photo: kiosque flottant, quai montebello

More terrace than bistro - the Kiosque Flottante at
the Quai de Montebello.

Mega Johnny Lights Mega Fire

Paris:- Sunday, 11. June 2000:- President Jacques Chirac was on TV last Monday evening, to say that he is 'in favor' of reducing France's presidential term from seven years to five.

This decision has confused the media - and me - for several reasons. The current president used to say he was not in favor of this constitutional change. As we all know, politicians have no 'right' to change their minds - according to the ever-watchful media.

There are two aspects to this shortening of the presidential mandate. One is constitutional and the other is political.

Taking the second first, the media wants to know what the political motive is behind such a change. Will a shortened term benefit this or that party, this or that politician?

On TV, President Chirac said, paraphrased, 'The term is long and probably too long, taking into account of the demands of modern democracy.'

It was not clear whether he was referring to the wear and tear on a person seeking a presidential re-election which would add up to a 14-year term in office under present rules. President Chirac has probably looked at his age, and thinks maybe another five years on the job would suit him better than seven.

From a challenger's viewpoint, this seems to make sense too. With five-year terms of office, the voters get more chances more often to effect changes at the top - meaning also, potential candidates get chances more often.

The five-year term was first proposed by ex-president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing some years ago, and he brought up again earlier this spring. His extra proposal is to limit the presidential mandate to two terms, but President Chirac is opposed to this.

In fact, he made is clear that he will veto any proposed change that exceed the simple change of term-length. He doesn't want the idea loaded down with a lot of other constitutional amendments as baggage.

Polls indicate that over 80 percent French voters favor a five-year term. Some politicians have other ideas and will be seeking to attach their various amendments as if they don't believe President Chirac meant what he said.

The president and Prime Minister Lionel Jospinphoto: fiat 500 of the week have agreed on the details for effecting the change and have put it on a 'fast track,' with the proposal expected to be presented for a first reading in the Assembly National on Wednesday, 14. June. The Senat will get to it on Thursday, 29. June.

This week's one and only 'Fiat 500 of the Week.'

The president said he wants a referendum organized so French voters get to decide the issue. This could take place as early as September.

There is one technical aspect that worries political operators. If the project for the five-year term passes, then the next presidential election will be shortly after the next elections for the national deputies. The pols would like the presidential election to be before.

One phrase often repeated, was the objection to a 'Presidential System.' By this, I think the French do not want any modification to the fact that the president is elected independently, de-coupled from the elections for legislators.

Some of this must be confusing for French voters, because many jargon-like terms are being used by all, including the new noun which sums it all up: 'Quinquennat.'

There are a handful of other constitutional issues that constitutional experts and some politicians would like to see modified - such as the present practice of holding multiple mandates - but President Chirac wants to 'keep it simple,' as well as quick.

The President's TV declaration, which was broadcast in prime time jointly on TF1 and France-2, was criticised for his lukewarm approach to the issue.

I don't know if he was expected to trumpet "Quinquennat! Rah! Quinquennat! Rah-rah!" instead.

Even though France has gone through enough 'Republics' to be experienced with inventing new versions, therephoto: rue des artistes are some more or less latent sectors of society who fondly remember the monarchy - as well as political figures who prefer 'no change' - if not an outright return to previous versions of the 'Republic.'

The obscure Rue des Artistes, in a slumbering 'village' part of Paris.

If all goes well, the 'nays' can have their say all summer long when the French will be occupied with important affairs - their holidays - and in September, when everybody feels pretty optimistic, then the French will vote 'Oui' for the Quinquennat.

If this happens, Jacques Chirac may well run for re-election; secure in the knowledge that he will have time left after a shortened second term to become a permanently 'sockless' ex-president.

This helps out Prime Minister Lionel Jospin too. Both men have high popularity ratings, but Jacques Chirac is probably a bit too popular now to be beaten for re-election. Then, after another five year term, Lionel Jospin will still be young enough get his chance.

Johnny Sells Out Free Concert

On Saturday night there was standing room only on Paris' Champ de Mars for Johnny Hallyday's 'gift' concert for his fans, to celebrate his 40 years of French rock-and-rolldom.

Normally the Champ de Mars does not accommodate many people other than police with whistles, tooting at people to get them off the grass.

But on Saturday night there was no grass to be seen, because it was underneath an estimated 400,000 or more hard-core Johnny - nickname 'Jo-Jo' - fans of all ages.

Estimates of possible crowd turn-out had ranged from 800,000 to 'millions,' but as big as the Champ de Mars is, it will hold only so many. Judging from overhead TV-views, it was filled to the edges.

The weather looked a bit dodgy from Friday evening on, but managed to hold off whatever it was planning until after the spectacle which closed down with a huge fireworks display, rivaling the one on New Years Eve.

Johnny's 'free' concert cost 41 million francs to stage. The Ville de Paris chipped in 15 million, his recording company added 16 million and the private TV-channel kicked in 10 million, for the rights to the live broadcast on TF1.

The show blasted off - 500,000 watts' worth - at 21:30, with 12 musicians, four beautiful 'ye-ye' girls and a chorus of 80. Standing by were 1300 cops.

Two hours later it closed with 'Non, je ne regrette rien,' which is not in your average rock repertoire, butphoto: rue commandeur the words are known to a lot of fans in France. The TV coverage was excellent, and with open windows echoed the live show all over Paris.

Many of Johnny's fans are older than he is - his 57th birthday is this coming week - but many are also half or a quarter of his age. Johnny's first single was released in March of 1960 and his first TV appearance was a month later on the show 'L'Ecole des Vedettes.'

A building-curved canyon in the Rue du Commandeur.

In September of the same year - he was 17 - he appeared on stage at the Alhambra in Paris. After two decades of 'firsts,' he appeared in his first starring role in the film 'Détective' directed by Jean-Luc Godard, in 1984.

Johnny has given free concerts before; the first was in 1963 for the magazine 'Salut les Copains.' His 30th show-biz anniversary was held at the Bercy sports palace in 1990; then he celebrated his own 50th birthday in 1993 for three days at the Parc des Princes football stadium.

After the semi-flop of an appearance in Las Vegas in 1996, Le Parisien's Sunday headline of 'C'était Méga Johnny!' seems well-deserved even if it is on page 39.

The server-lady Linda Thalman's reaction at 23:49 on Saturday was unreserved: "What a show! What fireworks! What an incredible concert!!! 1000% out of 1000% for Johnny!" This was remarkable because she is a hard-core tennis fan.

Johnny's Anti-Fans

Back in April, the bourgeois who live in the neighborhood palaces adjoining Paris' 'field of exceptional extravaganzas' were trying to get the show stopped. They objected to the damage that would be caused to the grass by broken bottles and holes.

They have been trying to get the big shows banned for years and would even like to see a high, iron-grill fence around the whole field. The city has quietly refused, saying that such a fence could cost as much as an after-show cleanup.

Neighbors also object to other park nuisances such as people being in it after dark, and the abundant results of people walking their dogs in it.

Strange as it may seem, there are few known cases of residents of the 13th or 19th arrondissements riding across town to the 7th arrondissement to offer their dogs an evening stroll on the Champ de Mars.

Sports News Roundup

Mary Pierce won the tennis tournament at Roland Garros by playing better than all of her opponents. The spectators were enthusiastically with her all the way, and didn't bother paying much attention to continual media hints that she is not entirely 'French.'

When she had the tournament in the bag and kissed the prize pot, she suddenly became the first Frenchwoman to win the Roland Garros tournament since Françoise Durr did it in 1967.

France's slightly re-constituted 1998 World Cup champion soccer team blew away Denmark 3-0 in their first match of the 'Euro 2000' football tournament.

This victory has caused all sorts of anguished soul-searching, which has filled much air-time and many pages of newspaper columns.

I don't follow football closely and don't even know what this 'Euro 2000' thing is, but 3-0 seems like a good enough score. It's a lot better than the 'wins' Paris' PSG posts with scores like 0-0.

Next Friday, the French squad meets the Czechs, who have already been hammered in their first game. French football fans are worried sick about it.

Only 16 Days Until...

The summer sales begin in Paris on Tuesday, 27. June according to what Printemps told Metropole reader Brigitte. I forget how long they continue, but in the past it was for four of five weeks.

To get the best choices for bargains, the first days are the best. 'Bargains' means this year's summer fashions that haven't already been snapped up. Discounts will range from 20 to 50 percent off regular prices. By law, sale prices have to be shown together with the original retail prices.

Also by law, only items that were in stock at the beginning of the 'sales' are allowed to be sold. This doesn't prevent shops from stocking up in anticipation, but is to ensure that more and lesser-quality goods are not put on the shelves while the sales are on.

Web Life In France:

It seems as if all new Web sites are 'Dot.Coms' these days. Some of these may be interesting, but there is a fierce battle going on for market share. This is also having a sad effect on the Paris poster scene, which now featuresphoto: bouquinistes, pont des arts many poorly executed and incomprehensible ads for who-knows-what.

It is just as difficult to see through the blizzard of promotional hype as it is to figure out what all the so-called 'free access' offers really mean.

No other 'beach' in the world has so many booksellers.

While this phase lasts, actual 'content' comes in a poor last. My guess is that it'll take months if not years for the dust to settle enough to see if there's anything worthwhile on these commercial sites - the few that survive the battle.

Meanwhile, I can't do much about it. I need to find new sources for leads to original content. I expect to make some effort in this direction during the summer. If you have any tips, send them in to share them with other readers.

Paris' Peace Wall, Forever

This leaves the URL for Paris' Peace Wall which I imagine is still on the Champ de Mars, if it survived Johnny's big show. If so, this 'Mur Pour la Paix' is worthwhile because 'Peace' lives on! You can also learn how to read the word 'peace' in 31 languages, including Spanish.

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini