France: A Deal With the Devil?

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It’s been a bad week for President Jacques Chirac: First his party suffered a sound drubbing at the polls by the ruling Socialists, then his allies began a lemminglike charge into bed with the far-right National Front. In at least three regions today, leaders of the Chirac-allied Union of Democratic Forces defied the president’s instructions forbidding alliances with the Front, making coalition deals in order to hang on to regional seats of power.

“The Pandora’s box has been opened and Chirac’s alliance is on the verge of implosion,” says TIME Paris correspondent Bruce Crumley. “Unless Chirac’s forces can reverse this trend, it’s over for them.” While the mutineers are likely to be expelled, the whiff of NF racism at the fringes of his alliance may still prove disastrous for the president. The ruling Socialists aren’t complaining -- the turmoil on the right simply confirms that the left now controls the center.

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