The Economist published this long essay on Chirac, Sarkozy, and French politics in general late last month. I have forgotten about it, until now. It is a pretty good; with some insights into the problems the French are having. Unlike Chirac, Sarkozy is a "reformer" and he now has the opportunity to remake the ruling party, and eventually, to replace Chirac.
"Mr Sarkozy, by contrast, has no time for tradition for tradition’s sake. In an enlarged Europe, he argues that France can no longer rely on the Franco-German motor and needs to cultivate a group of six that also includes Britain, Spain, Italy and Poland. Atlantic-minded, he urges a milder approach to America. He advocates an overhaul of the French social model, pushing for less state regulation and a more flexible labour market; his inspirations are Britain and Spain, not moribund Germany. He considers that the French model of integration has failed French Muslims, and argues for American-style social engineering to help minorities advance. In short, where Mr Chirac urges caution and conservatism, Mr Sarkozy presses for modernisation and change. ’France is not eternal,’ says one of his aides. ’If it does not reform, it will disappear.’"