France: A Deal With the Devil?

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Itís 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 presidentís instructions forbidding alliances with the Front, making coalition deals in order to hang on to regional seats of power.

ďThe Pandoraís box has been opened and Chiracís alliance is on the verge of implosion,Ē says TIME Paris correspondent Bruce Crumley. ďUnless Chiracís forces can reverse this trend, itís over for them.Ē 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 arenít complaining -- the turmoil on the right simply confirms that the left now controls the center.