Yes the incumbent French President will retain his post – it is the only logical outcome … or so my English friends seemed to think when I gauged their analytical brains last week on a short trip to London. The media too seemed to agree with them – headlines like “Too close to call” implying Hollande’s consistent lead in the polls since the beginning of the year could be overturned in a matter of hours.
Denial ain’t just a river as they say.
A true ‘socialist’ president was such an unthinkable result for the people of Britain that they did their best to convince themselves that such a thing wasn’t actually possible, but indeed it was, and is.
For those of us actually in France, the idea that Sarkozy would be ousted was inevitable and, to some, a very pleasing thought. Although in Alsace, with the exclusion of Mulhouse and Strasbourg, Sarkozy romped home – thanks to our traditionally far-right electorate who have consistently keep the LePenn’s in business.
The reason for his removal from office was simple – he just did not deliver on his promises. What did he promise? La rupture. A break from the past. Growth. A thriving economy. Indeed, opposite his then rival in 2007, Segolene Royal, he appeared to be full of ideas as to how to get France out of the doldrums. However, his book of proposals (Testimony) revealed very little about how he intended to achieve them. “We need to look at these things” seemed to be his mantra. Fine he could spot the odd problem – but he rarely came close to providing a solution.
For me, he lacked the balls to change the employment laws – so that companies could cope better with downsizing when times got tough (and get tough they did!) Tinkering with retirement ages and cutting education budgets were not exactly what people had in mind when they had voted for a thriving economy.
In short, what they got were cuts to education and pensions and no increase in living standards. So – Sarko had to go. Provided of course – that the opposing candidate might be worth voting for. Hollande just scraped it. Not all of France were convinced that he could deliver – but they were prepared to give him the chance over Uncle Nicolas.
So we have a socialist President about to take office. Will he be any good? Maybe, maybe not. The fact is that while Monsieur Hollande might be a out and out socialist – to a certain extent, by British standards anyway, so was Sarkozy. So the likelihood of wholesale change is extremely unlikely.
So while naive free-market economists might be bracing themselves for a pseudo-communist agenda from Hollande, they may well be pleasantly surprised to see just more of the same from a country where “change”, and not “socialism”, is a dirty word.