Monday, May 15, 2006

The Real Scandal of the French Political Elite -

One of the reason why most French people are so weary of their political leaders is that they all seem to be out of touch with reality and live in their own bubble.
Unlike the US though, it is not necessary that they have connections with dubious business leaders and coporations, it is that they are all formatted the same way in the same place. The reason is that most French political leaders come from the same France's elite school called École Nationale d'Administration (a top-administration school created in 1945 by Charles de Gaulle with the aim of creating a meritocratic postgraduate program for top civil servants and rebuilding a bureaucracy decimated by war and collaboration).
In fact, it is not just the politicians who graduate from ENA, most of France's senior officials are instructed there. It is the way of choice to reach the great administrative corps of the State. Not only do they have a monopoly of the top administrative positions within the civil service, but they can go into politics and industry without risk.
No wonder why people feel they all think and talk the same. No wonder why they are so out of touch with the rest of us. No wonder why cronyism is so prevalent.
I have yet to find the perfect system. The same phenomenon has gripped the American political elite but for different reasons. What is certain is that you cannot understand the current political scandal without understanding this system.
That's why today's International Herald Tribune interesting (and highly critical) article today on the French system is so relevant. It shows how this school system has helped concentrate power, with a small elite controlling large swaths of politics, business, and the country's powerful bureaucracy.
The intimate ties forged among its graduates have frequently been linked to insider machinations; now, in the scandal currently engulfing President Jacques Chirac and the French government - which has unfolded in a bewildering sequence of revelations implicating the top figures of the land in dirty tricks - the "old boy" connections of the principal figures appear to have played a crucial role.
Very tellingly it is called France's murky mix of school and scandal.

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