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VDemosthenes
Following the resignation of Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Jacques Chirac appointed Dominique de Villepin as the new Prime Minister of France...


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Villepin, 51, moves from the Interior Ministry to replace Jean-Pierre Raffarin, dumped after voters Sunday roundly rejected Chirac's call to ratify a European Union constitution, humiliating the 72-year-old president a leading proponent of the charter.


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He (Villepin) was Chirac's voice at the U.N. Security Council in the crisis over Iraq in 2003, arguing that war should be a last resort


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Villepin takes over at a difficult time. Unemployment is running at 10 percent and the French political establishment is reeling from the referendum vote that was as much a repudiation of Chirac's economic and social policies as it was a refusal of the EU treaty.


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Senior Socialist lawmaker Jean-Marc Ayrault called Villepin's appointment the "ultimate attempt to save an administration in agony."



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Questions for Debate:

1.) Is Chirac's choice for the new Prime Minister of France a wise one?

2.) Is Dominique de Villepin's appointment in the best interest of the people of France or is it a political ploy?

3.) Will Villepin's appointment cause more strains on our relationship with France?



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Ptarmigan
From what I can gather, Villepin is remarkably similar in views and style to Chirac, broadly he is regarded as an intellectual, aristocratic career diplomat, whom (big bad in my opinion!) has never actually been elected for anything....

Villepin takes the semi-Gaullist (i.e. that France should be neither reliant on or subservient to anyone) approach to international diplomacy, so, as with Chirac, there will be a tendency to go against the US rather than appear subservient to the US.

1.) Is Chirac's choice for the new Prime Minister of France a wise one?

2.) Is Dominique de Villepin's appointment in the best interest of the people of France or is it a political ploy?

3.) Will Villepin's appointment cause more strains on our relationship with France?



1) - No, not really. The French are tired of Chirac, they're tired of 10% unemployment and a government that tends to blame the EU and Eastern European competition for its woes, rather than actually instigate reforms. Chirac is, in an act of rather unsuprising arrogance, trying to force his views of how France should be run onto the French people, who clearly disagree. Villepin is a 'mini-Chirac' - Sarkozy would have been a far better (and popular) choice.

2) Its a political ploy really. Chirac is making sure that 'his' people are setting the agenda. It is also going to backfire on him, because the policies he's trying to promote stopped working in the 80s.

3) Probably, although I think its going to cause Chirac a lot more problems than its going to cause the US.

On the bright side, it'll probably make more people want to support the Sarkozy, who is in favour of closer ties with the US (and most French people I know generally like the US, although disagreed with Iraq) and liberal economic policies - which workers in France hate (and who could blame 'em?) - but will ultimately be better for France.

Horyok
I'll give you my French take on these:

1.) Is Chirac's choice for the new Prime Minister of France a wise one?

It depends if you're Chirac or the rest of the French people! If you're Chirac, you want someone you can trust and someone with good credibility. De Villepin happens to be both reliable to Chirac (he's literally the son Chirac never had!) and has an obvious aura of power thanks to his work at the UN in 2003 against the war in Iraq.

If you're the rest of the French people, you'll feel amused at best or gypped at worse. De Villepin is not very known by the French public. Although he's flamboyant and a brilliant intellectual, he's also a shy person who never liked to be put under the spotlights.


2.) Is Dominique de Villepin's appointment in the best interest of the people of France or is it a political ploy?

There were two possible contestants for the position of prime minister : Dominique de Villepin or Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy used to be Chirac's favorite but turned into his liberal nemesis. Sarkozy didn't accept to be nominated as a prime minister, so that he would save his chances of being elected as president in 2007. He's the embodiment of the liberal reformer, when de Villepin is the symbol of traditionally romantic France.

De Villepin took the job because Chirac asked him to. Given the current situation of fear and disillusion in the country, it's probably better to have him and his subtleness rather than Sarkozy and his "bulldozer" ways.

Ultimately, Sarkozy would do a better job at cleansing the French society from its old habits... but the French people don't want to see their social system reformed at the moment, because they're scared of their future.


3.) Will Villepin's appointment cause more strains on our relationship with France?

No, for two reasons :

1. Traditionally, French prime ministers under the 5th republic are always more focused on internal politics rather than foreign ones. That's the job of the minister of Foreign affairs actually! As an example,look back on the Iraq crisis in 2003: France was mostly represented by de Villepin and Chirac, but almost never by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the former prime minister.

2. France is extremely weak at the moment within Europe. It can't use its usual opposition to the US on the international scene because she's very alone indeed. However, you can rest assured that the anti-American rethoric will be used largely to defend the French way of life, but only within France herself.

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