Sharing the Blame in France
A sense of desperation continues to pervade French commentary on the rioting that has spread across the country. There is a widespread feeling that the country's "Republican social pact" is falling apart.
Even after President Jacques Chirac declared a state of emergency and Prime Minister Dominique Villepin imposed curfews in cities nationwide, La Croix (in French) portrayed the government as flailing "to get out of the crisis. To get out at any price."
"The government is trying hopelessly to regain the upper hand while appearing impotent against the rising power of urban violence," said the national daily. Villepin is caught between the imperatives of "firmness" and "justice," while the image of hard-line Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy as "'the first cop of France' has been seriously chipped."
Le Figaro (in French) suggests Villepin is rising to the occasion. In outlining his plan to reestablish order, he brought out the "heavy artillery" and spoke with "calmness, coolness and determination," according to the rightist daily.
But the editors of the leftist Le Monde (in French) say more needs to be done.
"Both the left and the right bear responsibility for the ripping of the social pact in the suburbs," they say. They note that the conservative parties have been in power for three years and that Chirac himself spoke two years ago of "reconquering the lost territories of the Republic," referring to the lawless zones in the suburbs dominated by drug dealers and gangs. Now Chirac must "act to heal the urban fracture that he let grow."
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