In case you missed it, France is on strike. It's hard to find gas for your car, trains don't work well and it was the same thing in the Paris' metro a while ago, dustmen are on strike in Marseille turning the whole city into a gigantic trash. And, and, and. (Note: the riots have almost nothing to do with the strikes ; it's just hooliganism) But why? If like Arun, you don't understand what's going on, please read on...

Our constitution differs a bit from other countries' systems because the head of the state is dual in France. We have both a president and a prime minister, and if the constitution reserves a few authority fields for the president, the balance of power between the two heads has more to do with common practice than with the letter of the law. Sarkozy, the current president, acts as if he were both the president and the prime minister, relegating the prime minister into a rather subordinate role. And there is nothing in the constitution against it. His advisers, who have no constitutional role, often act as ministers of the government. They forward Sarkozy's decisions to the public, speak directly to the media, and more generally bypass the government because everything is decided at the Elysée Palace and not at Hôtel de Matignon.

These advisers, decided first to reform the retirement plans without real negotiations with the trade unions, second to reform them without caring about a few very special cases (people who started working age 14, people who have very physical jobs, women who used their legal right to stop working for a while after giving birth, etc.) probably preserving them as "future areas of negotiations", third waiting for September to make the parliament vote on the proposal while a reform w/o negotiations pushed for a fast process. Oh, and the minister working on the case, Eric Woerth, is now plagued with a big scandal that would make anyone else resign in a western country so his position in front of the trade unions is pretty weak...

The strike is not entirely about the proposed law. Most people agree our retirement system is going amok and will go bankrupt if it's not updated. But most people agree too that the way the president and his government handle the case is authoritarian, and most people who read the law with a sharp eye agree that it does not protect our retirement system in the long run. It's a plaster on a wound, not a cure. So people also demonstrate because they dislike this administration, how this administration reads the constitution, how this administration makes nice and costly presents to the rich and powerful and increase the burden on the others, and so on.

The government now bets on the fact passing the law will turn the demonstrations useless and the whole thing will stop by itself. I'm not so sure about it... The state is the expression of the people, and the people express their lack of confidence. Polls indicate less than 30% of the french citizens now trust Sarkozy... That's not far from his score at the first round of the 2007 presidential election, meaning he almost lost all the extra voters of the second round. When de Gaulle lost the referendum in 1969, he just quit the day after. Sarkozy is clearly not made of the same metal ! Sarkozysm is a failure, and a big one, and that's the real reason why France is on strike. That's also the reason why the strikes won't end easily.