"France is in a pre-revolutionary situation."The combination of the largest group of Muslims in Western Europe and a failing economy could prove fatal for France:
France facing a tidal wave of protest
France could face its worst period of social unrest for a decade, analysts and commentators warned, as Dominique de Villepin's centre-right government returns today from its summer break. With petrol prices soaring, economic growth hesitant, trade unions furious, public confidence in the country and its political leaders at rock-bottom and a string of unpopular reforms still lying ahead, conditions are ripe for what one analyst, Gerard Mermet, called "genuine social upheaval". The first cabinet meeting of the new political year will be chaired by a president, Jacques Chirac, whose approval ratings have barely budged since the cataclysm of France's No vote to the EU constitution in May, when he became the most unpopular French head of state ever. With economic growth standing at just 0.1% in the second quarter, and Paris under strong pressure from Brussels to bring its deficit back to below the EU's 3% ceiling, the prime minister will also find it almost impossible to finalise a state budget for 2006 without big cuts in public spending - each provoking further unrest. Le Monde warned in a recent editorial that the "rentrée" will Mr de Villepin's "first real test". The sociologist Mr Mermet was more pessimistic: "Things will radicalise," he said. "There is a real risk of explosion: we are in a pre-revolutionary situation."
Internet was strong forum for French 'no' vote
A new study has shown how instrumental the internet was for the no campaigners in France, after a wave of analyses on why French voters rejected the EU Constitution in their May referendum. Carried out by researchers at the University of Technology of Compiegne, the report reveals that those against the constitution mainly invested in websites for their campaigns. It also showed that on the 295 sites dedicated to the referendum campaign, 67 percent of those asked to give their opinion on the EU charter voted no. "The web served as a political tribunal for those who considered themselves distanced from television formats or big-time media, transforming the web into a sort of negative medium", according to the authors of the research, Franck Ghitalla and Guilhem Fouetillou. This negative medium appeared to help reinforce the negative vote, they add. The authors also show how small virtual communities were gradually built up around the no campaign on the internet. The movement even had its own stars, with one no campaigner's site getting up to 30,000 hits a day.