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NewsletterJune 2002

Presidential Election

Jacques Chirac was reelected May 5th with over 80% of the vote. This overwhelming victory was the result not of Chirac's popularity, he has Bill Clinton language and scandal problems, but of the unpopularity of the ideas of his opponent, far right leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen (See May 2002 letter.) Plus the fact that all of the institutions in France: political, cultural and religious called for a vote for Chirac. A vote for Chirac- was a means to faire barrage a la extrem droite. This would stop the far right from getting anymore powerful.
The crisis it seems is past, for now. I say for now, due to the legislative elections coming up, first round June 6th, second round June 16th. Chirac's newly formed party, Union for the Presidential Majority, needs to win a majority of the 577-seat parliament. Otherwise the party will share power, most likely with the Socialist Party. History is on Chirac's side. Every Presidential election winner of the 5th Republic has been rewarded with a legislative majority in the elections following his Presidential win. What could change that history is the fact that the right in the first round of the Presidential election actually lost more votes than the left, by about 3 to 1. Also Chirac had the lowest first round vote total, about 20%, than any President running for reelection in the 5th Republic.

Savior of the Republic

Some said that after Chirac's landslide victory he was the savior of the Republic. If he was he then had another chance to prove it during the final of the French Cup football match. Fans of one of the finalist, Bastia, whistled, the European equivalent of booing, during the Marseillaise, the French national anthem. Chirac got visibly angry and refused to go through with the traditional handshaking with the players, he then left the Stade de France, the stadium where the match was being held.
Those close to Chirac said afterward that his reaction was a natural spontaneous gut reaction that reaffirmed his standing as a defender of the values of the republic and its symbols.


Earlier this month, I was listening to France Inter, a national French news, interview and talk radio station. A French film maker, sorry but I did not get his name, was interviewed about a film he made about Huntsville, Texas. The film was about the role prisons play in the local community. What I found interesting was a comment made by the interviewer. She asked about the amount of guns in the general population in Huntsville, the film maker stated that guns very common and could be easily purchased. She stated that she felt this was in conflict with the idea of public safety. Especially in a city with so many prisons, prisons that are there to provide public safety. I found this perspective to be interesting and not at all how Americans think.

May in France

Not only has May brought spring like weather to France it has also brought five paid holidays. May 1st(Labor Day), May 8th(Victory in WW II), May 9th(Ascension), May 10th(Le Pont- the bridge between May 8th and 9th and the weekend) and finally May 20th(Pentecost). Months with many holidays like May and August, most French vacation for the whole month. Hence my theory: French materialism manifests itself not through buying but through holiday taking. Yes, the French like to shop but they are more into their holidays. Holidays seem to be very much apart of the French mind set. One of my coworkers has already gone on vacation twice with his family this year, with a vacation in August still to come.

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