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10-08-2015, 22:23

France: A Season of Discontent

Although France did not face the challenge of integrating two different systems into a single society, it encountered many of the same economic and social problems as its neighbor Germany. The policies adopted during the early 1980s by the Socialist majority under President Mitterrand failed to work, and within three years the Mitterrand government returned some of the economy to private enterprise. Mitterrand was able to win a second seven-year term in the 1988 presidential election, but France’s economic decline continued. In 1993, French unemployment stood at 10.6 percent, and in the elections in March of that year, the Socialists won only 28 percent of the vote while a coalition of conservative parties won 80 percent of the seats in the National As- sembly. The move to the right was strengthened when the conservative mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, was elected president in May 1995. The center-right government remained in power as the new century opened. As in Germany, resentment against foreign-born residents was a growing political reality. Spurred by rising rates of unemployment and large numbers of immigrants from North Africa (often identified in the public mind with terrorist actions committed by militant groups based in the Middle East), many French voters gave their support to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front, which openly advocated a restriction on all new immigration and limited assimilation of immigrants already living in France.