Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Poor Jacques Chirac

It's his last year in office and he's going out as a subject of ridicule and derision. First, there is a movie Dans La Peau de Jacques Chirac (Being Jacques Chirac or, literally, In Jacques Chirac's Skin)whose ridicule of the President is winning praise from critics.

But that is not all. There are beaucoup other scandals and embarrassments.
The impression of a leader doomed to see out his last year of office engulfed by damaging setbacks was strengthened during his absence. A furious reaction greeted news of his amnesty for a disgraced ally.

Guy Drut, a former athlete and sports minister, was pardoned six months after being given a suspended jail sentence for accepting a £2,000-a-month salary for a bogus job.

The case stemmed from a saga of corrupt political financing that would have led to the questioning of Mr Chirac but for his presidential immunity.

Meanwhile, yesterday was the anniversary of France's humiliating response to his gamble of a referendum on the EU constitution, which the voters rejected.

Further embarrassment could be in store today when police interview a man at the centre of the so-called Clearstream scandal, in which false corruption allegations were made against Mr Chirac’s adversary and would-be successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, among others.

Mr Chirac's problems extend further. A book by a respected political commentator, Franz-Olivier Giesbert, describing him as the embodiment of all France's failings, is a runaway best-seller.

And Etienne Pinte, a senior member of his UMP party, yesterday gave him a month to sort out "the mess we find ourselves in".

Mr Giesbert concluded that Mr Chirac had become so afraid of mass protest that he had abandoned ambitions of social and economic reform.

That view was reinforced by a comment from the far-Right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, who said the only reform the president had achieved was to change the phone number for directory inquiries.

Libération also pointed yesterday to Mr Chirac's habit of confusing dates and becoming lost for the right word whenever he departs from prepared text.
One might almost feel sorry for the guy, mais non. The ridicule is just too richly deserved.