Decree Days are Back

photo: fast food at denfert demo

Funky food for hungry demonstrators.

Hustling Artists Banned

Paris:- Monday, 15. February 2003:- The times continue to be strange in France. Last spring, due to a campaign bungle, the left was forced to vote massively for the re-election of France's right-wing president, Jacques Chirac, for a second term.

Since then the mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé, has spearheaded a drive to unite the right-wing parties under the single banner of the UMP - the 'Union pour une Majorité Présidential.' The last 'p' may stand for 'Populaire,' but if so, it is wishful thinking.

Another moderate right-wing party, the UDF, led by François Bayrou, does not want his party to be part of the UMP. In a recent by-election, the candidate put up by the UDF was elected, beating the UMP's candidate.

For this - to reduce 'infinite' choice - the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, introduced a 'reform' law to change the electoral code concerning regional and European elections. This new rule would eliminate candidates who do not gather more votes than 10 percent of the registered voters - which could prevent the smaller parties from having a chance of electing anybody.

François Bayrou then called a meeting of minor party chiefs of all 'wings' - who had asked their supporters to vote for Chirac instead of Jean-Marie Le Pan in last spring's presidential election.

These included the leaders of the Greens, an opposition Socialist-oriented candidate, two Communists, andphoto: crowd, protesters several right-wing leaders including the hunters and fishermen - but excluded anybody connected with the Front National even if they opposed Jean-Marie Le Pen. No UMP, Socialist or Communist Party bigwigs attended the meeting.

The meeting resulted in 12,000 parliamentary amendments to the proposed 'reform' law. The prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, characterized this as obstruction, and used the article 49-3 to pass the 'reform' by decree.

This article, which was never used by Lionel Jospin's government, permits the majority in the Assembly National to pass laws without discussion or a vote. This law was last used in June of 1996, by Alain Juppé, when he was Prime Minister - to change the status of France Télécom.

The change in the law is just as likely to benefit the Socialist Party as the majority UMP, to the detriment of all other minor expressions of difference. Most decried, was the tendency toward a two-party system.

The parliamentary leader of the UDF has said his party intends to put up 22 candidates in 22 regions for the next round of elections.

There were two reasons evoked by the prime minister for not devoting 170 hours of parliamentary time to discussing the 12,000 amendments to the election law.

First, he said he could not 'spare' the valuable time of the minister of the interior who is engaged in the fight against terrorism - and second, the cloud of an impending war against Iraq is getting darker.

Is It True What the French Think?

France's parliament has not been engaged in any official discussions about a possible war involving Iraq because this problem is being managed by Président Chirac and by his foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin.

Newspaper reports are saying most elected deputies of all parties fully support the French chief of state's approach to the situation.

According to a poll by the CSA Institute for Le Parisien conducted after the US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the US evidence of Iraq's misdeeds to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, 5. February - the 'evidence' was received with skepticism by 74 percent of the French

At the same time 77 percent of the French polled said they opposed a US military intervention in Iraq. After this last weekend, polls now put the 'opposed' percentage at over 80.

In a similar poll conducted in January of 1991, 71 percent of the French polled approved of an international intervention to settle the crises caused by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

On Saturday in Paris between 150,000 and a quarter-million turned out for a peace march from Denfert-Rochereau to Bastille under frigid but true blue skies. The leaders of the parade reached the Place de la Bastille before the all the followers of it left the starting point.

However, the Paris demo was handily outnumbered by similar protest marches in London, Madrid and Rome, the capital cities of countries whose leaders are the closest supporters of the US position.

Even adding the numbers who marched in 72 other French towns and cities to the total, does not bring the mass up to the turnout in Rome. Worldwide, including in the United States, perhaps 10 million marched on Saturday.

Conspicuously absent from Saturday's demo were France's right-wing leaders, who seem to be adept at managing to lack visible support for France's chief of state, or for the state of French opinion.

The Socialist-inspired motion of censure against the use of the article 49-3 to bulldoze electoral 'reform' into law was easily defeated during the Assembly's Saturday session because the right-wing enjoys a comfortable majority.

Going Bust Gains Popularity

For some unknown reason company closings and the resulting lay-offs of workers are called 'plans sociaiaux' here. I think there actually used to be plans in place to recycle workers into new jobs.

It is possible that these no longer functionphoto: denfert crowd, protesters because bankruptcies are becoming too frequet to absorb the hapless employees. Hardly a day passes without the announcement of another factory closing - and these are often in provincial areas where the factory in question is the only major employer.

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