François Hollande: standing cocksure

The pendulum has swung full swing again and a plebiscitary air has enveloped the euro zone, breaking the dictatorial flavour that the imposition of President Mario Monti in Italy as well as the appointment of the Greek administration had given the euro system. Indeed with elections on the fiscal stability Treaty due in Ireland at the end of May and with the French citizenry yesterday going to the ballot box for the first round of the presidential elections, democracy for now it seems, has been restored to Europe.

Nevertheless as my cartoon suggests I want to take a closer look at the French presidential election race.

Last night, the French people spoke in great numbers and with a clear voice, (Hollande, 28.6%; Sarkozy, 27.08%; and a turnout, ≈ 70%) handing the Socialist challenger François Hollande a clear lead after the first round of voting and setting the stage for an intriguing final run-off set for May 6th. Certainly a day’s balloting across France has confirmed recent polls that consistently suggested that Nicolas Sarkozy is to be the first French president in 30 years to lose a re-election campaign.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the centre-right incumbent and leader of the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire), who campaigned as a forceful outsider in 2007, took the highest office in France fresh faced, full of optimism and committed to bringing Anglo-Saxon free enterprise to France. However the incumbent has suffered through a 5 year term mired by economic malaise and unable to bring life to many of his commitments Sarkozy must face up to a poor record and a legacy of unfulfilled pledges as well as an insurgent and capable challenger in the form of François Hollande, leader of the Parti Socialiste.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the son of a miner and Hungarian migrant who 5 years ago promised une rupture with the past certainly has much to answer for: indeed over the past 5 years his country’s global influence has waned; his pledge to reduce unemployment to 5% has flopped and unemployment now stands at 10%; youth unemployment remains painfully high and fears are abound for a lost generation; the real economy is faltering and French industry has lost ground; growth remains low and the nation’s credibility was dealt a heavy blow under Sarkozy’s watch when its sovereign rating was downgraded. Certainly for these failings and more anti-Sarkosyism is rife which simply consolidates the case of the Socialist presidential challenger.

If last night’s results and Hollande’s recent widening surplus in opinion polls are anything to go by it seems that the French electorate are still looking for the rupture that Sarkozy promised 5 years ago; certainly ever since Hollande won the Socialist primaries and lodged his nomination in October 2011, the leader of the Parti Socialiste has consistently topped the polls and as such it is becoming increasingly likely that May 6th will see a manifest shift from the Right to the Left with François Hollande becoming the first Socialist leader in 17 years.

Hollande has already made firm promises for office that would see his Socialist administration unfolding an etatist programme and the deliverance of a rupture from the economic liberalism of recent years: pledges for increased taxes and spending as well as a crackdown on banks and executive pay which have filled the markets with worry and suspicion.

However many pressing questions arise when one presents such a scenario: namely, in which direction would Hollande take the Hexagone? How would the markets react to a socialist leader in charge of the Europe’s second largest economy and trading nation? How would an already turbulent euro zone react to the uncertainty that would be triggered if the likeable apparatchik, who who has promised a renegotiation of the fiscal compact, secured his nation’s highest office? Would a Hollande-led France have a chilling effect on the Franco-German axis in Europe? Certainly ‘Mer-londe’ doesn’t have the same ring to it; however could a potential breaking of the Franco-Allemagne monopoly on European policies bring an égalité to Europe?

All these questions, uncertainties and more remain to be answered but it’s clear that François Hollande has done much to capitalise on the electorate’s fatigue of the economic crisis, structural reforms and of the incumbent Sarkozy. Indeed the majority of political analysts are calling Hollande to secure a long term relocation to the Elysée palace this summer.

However with the potential for such a dramatic shift in the French and European political landscape, very real political risks could emerge and with a fresh wave of market crisis on the horizon I see long term French and European political and economic certainty in the hands of Sarkozy.

  • Harry Flashman

    On what planet is 28.6% against 27.08% described as a “clear lead”?

    A 1.5% lead with a second round still to come and the far right taking 19% is wafer thin and probably not enough.

    This is an appalling result for Hollande, since the race began the media has taken it for granted he would beat Sarkozy. The BBC even had a piece on its webpage asking “Why is Sarkozy hated so much?”, (with no sense of apparent irony it answered the question by saying it was partly related to the left wing dominance of the French media, academia and state institutions, natch).

    The media breathlessly reported opinion poll after opinion poll showing that Hollande would walk it with his only problem being the challenge from the far left (the far right was as usual treated like something nasty sticking to their shoes).

    This is an upset, Sarkozy could easily swing this through judicious negotiations with Le Pen, where do the Socialists get the necessary votes to counter that?

    Even if they do scrape in the French Socialist party demonstrates once again the huge disconnect between them, their allies in the establishment and the ordinary French people.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I wonder should François Hollande as leader of France be joined by Angela Walsh in England, Scott England north of the border, Erin Scott in Dublin and Israel Banana in Belfast.

  • tuatha

    Surely the point is that the frogs think that they are Chanticleer when really they are a capon?
    Can anyone recall when they last won a war, acted other than duplicitously or in defiance of EU rules&regs (eg the deportation of Roma last year despite their holding EU p/ps) or did the decent thing – Rainbow Warrior in NZ anyone?
    Unlike the brits, they never left a colony until thrown out after genocidal war, their esprit is utterly central, a’la Napolean (in an unGodwin discussion this would be called fascist without the dubious benefit of trains running on time) and constantly lie about their true budgetary position.
    Anyone with a $5 calculator, or a modicum of arithmetical ability – yeh, I know, lost since the 70s edjakation changes – can see that the biggest debtor in the eurozone is France – the largest exposure to the PIIGS, the largest current a/c deficit and the higest unfunded SS liabilities.
    So, lotsa luck Hollande. Pity that your compatriots didn’t choose your (far) better half (3/4?, 5/6?) Segolene Royal when they had the chance in 2007.
    Anyone imagine Mde Royal grovelling to Fr Merkel to impose perpetual penury on the lower orders to keep the banksters in caviar?

  • iluvni

    “Nevertheless as my cartoon suggests I want to take a closer look at the French presidential election race” … with not one mention of Le Pen.

  • tyrone_taggart

    tuatha (profile)

    “the frogs…..Can anyone recall when they last won a war”

    WW1 ?

  • tuatha

    TT – you ARE joking?
    As usual, when not faced by unarmed peasants as in their various colonies – who still beat them, they caved and waited for the anglophone countries to pull their croissants out of the fire, whining all the while.
    Their wounded pride was the reason that they insisted, against the advice & pleadings of USA & UK, on those insane conditions to punish Germany in that accursed railway carriage which predicated WWII, while as they hid behind their utterly futile Marginot Line.
    As noted a couple of millennium earlier Hubris, without validity, by Nemesis.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Anyone imagine Mde Royal grovelling to Fr Merkel to impose perpetual penury on the lower orders to keep the banksters in caviar?’

    Well one doesn’t have to imagine Tanaiste Gilmore or Finance Minister Noonan or Enda Kenny ‘grovelling ‘to the Merkel?Sarcozy combo or their FF predecssors in government . Our Irish ‘establishment ‘ politicians have been in mode prostrate now for several years and past masters at the art of grovel .The fact that it’s getting them nowhere nor the economy hasn’t yet dawned on them.

    The French actually vote in numbers with over 80% voting in Sundays first round . Unlike the UK or the USA or Ireland people in France whether of the left or right still ‘believe’ that governments are supposedly elected to represent the people and not just a cosseted few plutocrats or international bond holders or shadowy banksters in Vaduz or the Cayman Islands or in Guernsey , Jersey or Sark or the Isle of Man..

    Which is why Sarkozy will probably not be re-elected in the second round of voting . The Dutch Government has now fallen making it the 7th or 8th ? in the EU to fall as a result of this worldwide economic . Spain is again under pressure and Germany’s Landesbanks are in trouble ons of the USA sub prime mortgage rip offs now once again being unearthed.

    And yet last week Bloomberg reported that despite all the so called financial reforms passed in the Frank/Dodds act the biggest USA Banks -Goldman Sachs , BOA , Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup have over the past few years consolidated their grip on the American economy with ‘ownership’ of 56% of all USA assets which is a 10% increase over the 46% of the 2008 figure -remember when the banks were supposed to be too big to fail. Now that they are even bigger the sound emanating from politicians of the right and left is one of silence (elections upcoming and election campaign financial donations are always welcome ) as a matter of course in our modern plutocracies 🙁

    ‘Ever more austerity for the people -and ever more caviar and bonuses for the banksters ‘ is a certain recipe for eventual political revolution which can be of the extreme right or left .The French lest it be forgotten have been noted for not only inventing the guillotine but actually using it to ‘restore ‘ the ‘ruling class/classes’ to more broadly socially acceptable norms of economic behaviour .