A Dark New Era for France?

In the IHT, Alan Riding–himself an outsider but astute observer of cultural history as the former NYT bureau chief–wonders if France is heading the wrong way:

Indeed, one of the features of the Fifth Republic is that, while the National Assembly and Senate ultimately define the law, the mood of the country is more often determined by how the president projects his power and personality. And if the hyperactive Sarkozy managed to put off many French by being all too present, Hollande is viewed at best as an office manager struggling with an uncooperative staff.

He has also not picked his battles wisely. Although gay marriage was recently legalized with majority public support, the issue stirred massive conservative and Catholic opposition, leading to huge rallies across the country. And driving these was not only opposition to gay marriage (and adoption), but also an undisguised effort to undermine the government as a whole.

Put differently, the political void is being filled by anger and frustration. On the far right, the National Front under Marine Le Pen — a more conciliatory figure than her combative father, Jean-Marie Le Pen — is quietly harvesting the unrest. On the far left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Leftist Front is more of a problem for Hollande since it is already preparing to take to the streets to block any attempt at economic reform in the autumn.

Darker forces are also stirring.

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