Paris—As a New Year’s gift to those who elected him, France’s new president, François Hollande, mired in a seemingly intractable economic malaise and about to embark on a war in an old colonial territory of Francophone Africa, made an announcement, which the French daily Le Monde carried as an urgent bulletin. He would put an end to the practice of every ex-president becoming a member of the Conseil Constitutionnel, the final judicial appeal of French citizens. Beginning with himself, though not extending to his hated predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, no exiting president would have the inalienable right to a seat on France’s highest court. It was a campaign promise, one of 60 that Hollande made, as French presidents are wont to make in the heat of battle but rarely expected to remember, let alone keep. But Hollande has been quite meticulous in honoring a number of them. Still, of the 60...

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