“Presidents” is a French comedy starring Jean Dujardin and Gregory Gadebois as two former French presidents named Nicolas and Francois (Yeah) who are struggling to deal with life after the Elysee and their electoral ejection from it. It’s a gentle comedy and also stars Pascale Arbillot and Doria Tillier as their respective partners, and is an entertaining look at the gap between the men who become head of state and the country they led.
Welcome to MittelEuropa, the former Communist central European republic that peacefully transitioned from a communist dictatorship to a democratic socialist state. Unlike its neighbours, the republic maintained state control over most of its economy, and decided not to join the European Union. As a result, living standards remained at Soviet levels, with a large outflux of younger citizens seeking great opportunity leading to the nation aging substantially compared to its neigbours. Remittances sent back to families by emigrants cause tension in the country as the government seeks to tax them as income to subsidise the socialist welfare state and the state’s industrial sector. A heavy tariff and customs wall against imports protects indigenous industry and agriculture, but also leads to higher prices due to limited supply. A growing black market, based on Deutschmarks and Francs, provides more luxurious European and American products.
In the first free elections the Social Democratic Party, made up of former Communist reformers who led the peaceful 1989 revolution are elected with a comfortable majority in parliament. The government introduces modest free market reforms, allowing for small businesses to exist and make modest profits, but the majority of the economy and all large commercial operations remain in public ownership. Newspapers and other media operations are strictly regulated in terms of market share, and the state broadcaster remains the largest media operator in the country, although its board is appointed in direct proportion to the share of party seats in parliament.