At the end of the 20th century, the French political scene was going through a phase of solid government stability. In the context of a Europe with a progressive majority, since 1997 also in France a center-left coalition was at the helm of the country, which in the space of two years had consolidated its consensus thanks to a policy that was mainly focused on social measures such as, for example, the regularization of illegal immigrants and the law that set the legal length of the working week at 35 hours (April and May 1998). Faced with the strengthening of the left, and above all of the Socialist Parties (PS) of Prime Minister L. Jospin, the moderate right of the Union pour la démocratie française(UDF) and the party of President J. Chirac, the Rassemblement pour la république (RPR), was instead weakened by competition from the Front National (FN), a far-right party ideologically characterized by a strong racist and xenophobic. Despite this substantial stability, however, some basic questions remained unresolved which, common to the democracies of the post-industrial West, would soon manifest themselves in France with renewed strength: on the one hand, the serious social tensions fueled by growing immigration and, by other, the progressive spread of a mistrust of the establishment and, more generally, of a strong anti-political sentiment.
According to Softwareleverage, the increasing share of non-European workers within the active population contributed, in the context of the more general evolution of the economic-productive model and of the labor market, to redesigning the social map of the country and, above all, the new forms and areas of exclusion: urban suburbs with a high concentration of immigrants (especially women and young people), poor workers (engaged in precarious low-wage activities), single-parent families, the elderly, the homeless. Already emerging in the previous decade, the other phenomenon that would have significantly affected the French public sphere and the fate of traditional parties, that is the growing disaffection towards politics produced in a large part of the electorate by the perception that, beyond the different party affiliations, the traditional political class was less and less differentiated from the point of view of the programs, more and more self-referential, largely corrupt, and above all unable to respond to one of the most felt issues, that of security. To these issues were added, on a more specific national level, the heated disputes that arose within the government alliance and in public opinion over participation in the war against Yugoslavia (March-June 1999), while the violence of Corsican separatism was repeated. The success of Jospin and his party in the European elections of June 1999(unique result among those obtained by the center-left governments of European countries belonging to NATO) seemed to have rewarded the political line adopted by the cabinet in its first two years of life, and moreover strongly claimed in the electoral campaign: a line that, although tense to combine an opening to the market economy with the reaffirmation of the role of the state, he emphasized the centrality of social policy, thus distinguishing himself from the social-liberal choice of the British T. Blair and the German G. Schröder. Internally, while the participation of NATO troops in Kosovo divided both sides, the government bill on Pacte civil de solidarité (PACS) proposed a polarization of the clash between center-left and center-right. The project, which extended the legal and fiscal rights of couples regularized through marriage to unmarried and homosexual couples, was presented in the autumn of 1998, but was approved only in October 1999, after a long and difficult parliamentary process , to because of the contrary position of Chirac and parts of the Catholic world and the right, which in January of that year had given rise to a demonstration of almost 100,000 people. In September 2000, a popular referendum was held on the proposal, supported by Chirac himself, to reduce from 7 to5 years the presidential term; despite the positive outcome, the referendum seemed to confirm, with its high rate of abstention, the lack of interest of the electorate towards national politics. In this second phase of the mandate, consequently, the Jospin government was characterized by a more marked attention to the issues of civil liberties: among other measures, in June 1999 a law was approved that established equal opportunities for men and women in the electoral field, and in 2001 the compulsory military service was abolished. In the meantime, the Corsican question arose with new urgency. Despite the truce proclaimed in January 1999 (but only for the island) by the independence group Front de libération nationale de la Corse (FLNC), the attacks continued throughout the year until, in December, negotiations were started in Paris between the representatives of the central government and the Corsican administration and those of the nationalists. The institutional reform project presented by Jospin in July (which provided for an extension of the legislative powers of the Corsican regional assembly within four years, the compulsory teaching of the Corsican language from kindergarten and elementary school, and autonomy in fiscal and economic matters), however, caused splits between the political forces and within the government structure itself (in August, in disagreement with the project, the Minister of the Interior J.-P. Chevènement resigned), while the most extreme of Corsican nationalism continued in the terrorist activity. The difficulties encountered led to a downsizing of the project which, in a moderate version, was launched by Parliament in December 2001. In November 1998 a popular referendum in New Caledonia approved the gradual transfer of power to local institutions, and in October of the following year a new law gave French Polynesia the new status of overseas country .