I'm just back from a 10-day stay in France, during which I spoke to dozens of people and spent a fair amount of time nosing around Paris. While I was in the air on the way home, the National Assembly voted yes to a constitutional amendment allow la déchéance de nationalité, as Hollande and Valls apparently succeeded in persuading deputies on their side that preserving Hollande's crumbling authority was paramount, while Sarkozy apparently convinced deputies on his side that ideological consistency was more important than dealing yet another blow to an already damaged presidency.
Among people I spoke to there was a consensus, nevertheless, that the country wants neither Hollande nor Sarkozy for its next president. The problem is how to get there, when both the current and the former president, for all their failings as presidents, remain clever political operatives and in possession of the means to compete in intraparty infighting. Many people who normally vote left seem prepared to vote for Juppé, if only he can find a way to be nominated, but no one seems confident in his skills as a candidate or a primary competitor. Meanwhile, Hollande is sure to be challenged on the left--if not in an open primary of "all the left," as has been proposed in a petition signed by Piketty, Rosanvallon, Cohn-Bendit, and others, then in the primary to which the PS is committed by its own by-laws, in which it is clear that Arnaud Montebourg is prepared to mount a challenge (openly discussed in the most recent Canard enchaînée). We shall see where these initiatives go.
And now there has been a remaniement, with Ayrault returning to the government as foreign minister. Fabius leaves on a high note, having succeeded with the COP21, a laudable initiative that he pursued with passion but that to my mind looks like one of those laudable initiatives that history will remember in the breach rather than the observance (Kellogg-Briand pact, anyone?).
I was impressed, finally, by the Parisian stiff upper lip in the face of last year's terror attacks. The état d'urgence continues, but life seems to have returned to normal. Occasionally one runs into a heavily armed contingent of troops guarding this or that site, but people aren't looking right and left in the Metro, where the police presence actually struck me as lighter than usual. There are fewer tourists, people say, with a consequent dent in the chiffre d'affaires of hotels and department stores, but the restaurants and cafés are full, there are still lines at all the museums, and Charlie Hebdo is as cheeky as ever (most recently with its Hanouna cover).