Game over yet? Don’t count on it. As Prime Minister Raffarin retorted to President Bush, ‘It’s not a game. It’s not over.’ French President Jacques Chirac and Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin, his foreign minister, are having a great war. Just look at the polls: a Sofres survey to be released on Friday will claim that 86 per cent of French people approve his handling of the Iraq crisis. That’s more than the 82 per cent Chirac scored in last year’s elections against the far-Right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. This expresses nicely what most French people think of George W. Bush, and most of it is unprintable. Eighty-one per cent, a figure to make Tony Blair weep with envy, believe France’s role in the world has been strengthened by Chirac’s ‘principled resistance’ to American hegemony. Flattered by comparisons with General Charles de Gaulle and saluted by politicians across the spectrum, Chirac has in six months erased a reputation for sleaze and opportunism acquired over four decades. Some argue he could even run for a third term in 2007, at the age of 74.
The Iraq crisis has also transformed de Villepin. An unelected appointee struggling to find a solution for the C