Will the Center Hold?

At first glance, last week's 287-217 parliamentary vote granting the island of Corsica increased autonomy may look like another exercise in partisan politics. France's leftist majority dutifully supported the government of Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, while the conservative opposition just as predictably snubbed it. In reality, however, the bill is causing division even within political parties and may set off significant changes in France's highly centralized governing structure.

Though the draft law is designed to end the nationalist violence and organized crime that have plagued the island for over two decades, one consequence — limited decentralization —...

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