De Villepin, Dominique (France)

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Dominique de Villepin, a flamboyant former diplomat and poet, was appointed prime minister of France by the president, Jacques Chirac, on 31 May 2005 following the electorate’s dramatic rejection in a referendum of the European Union constitution that had been championed by the government. Villepin faced an uphill struggle to revive the French economy and reduce the high level of unemployment. Critics questioned his ability to unite the country, given that he was a member of the political elite who had never stood for election to public office and with little experience of domestic economic or social policy. Nevertheless, faced with the worst civil unrest in France since the troubles of 1968, he took tough emergency measures in Oct.–Nov. 2005 to deal with widespread rioting across the country. He courted further unpopularity in spring 2006 with controversial legislation on youth employment which was later withdrawn in the face of street demonstrations and strikes. In Dec....

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