The politically incorrect guide to the French election results
SOPHIE QUINTIN ADALIFundamentally, it does not matter who wins the second round. The future president will be a socialist and the country will continue to be at odds with the prevailing austerity orthodoxy. Until reality catches up. Here are a few inconvenient comments on what is really happening.
On Socialism of the Right (27 percent): Bad things come in threes. Having handsomely lost the regional elections and narrowly having lost the first round, the second round could be Nicolas Sarkozy’s undoing. He may want to ponder on the pertinence of his sudden shift to anti-capitalist rhetoric in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Not to mention his leading of the charge to impose fiscal Terreur. It most certainly cost him the classical liberal vote (estimated at 3 percent) and small businesses. For the second round, he is betting on the Front National vote and some of Bayrou’s in the center (8 percent). Can he win? Ask crystal ball readers or pollsters.
On Socialism of the Left (28.7 percent): The narrow lead is a psychological victory more than the comfortable one professed by the Left-leaning press. The apparatchik of the unreconstructed Socialist Party has led a solid albeit uninspiring campaign. Notorious for his lack of “bling-blingness,” François Hollande has successfully recycled François Mitterrand’s card of the “force tranquille.” But can he deliver on economic growth? What we know is that he can deliver on debt. In the three years of his presidency of the Council of Correze, the sparsely populated department has now become the most indebted region due in part to a whopping 48 percent increase in staff costs.
On the statist Front National (FN) (18 percent): voters who supported the Union for Popular Movement (UMP) in 2007 and trusted Nicolas Sarkozy to implement reforms were never going to forgive him for failing to deliver. The high score of Marine Le Pen is not so much indicative of a sudden surge in fascism or islamophobia. Rather it is the direct result of misguided UMP strategies compounded by the hyper-president’s growing lack of credibility. The pugnacious FN leader has skillfully surfed the wave of “pujadisme” (middle class revolt) amongst small entrepreneurs whose businesses are stifled by fiscal measures and regulations imposed by the ever-growing army of civil servants.
On Communism, reloaded (11 percent): the best campaign title was awarded to Jean-Luc Melanchon, MEP, a proponent of the forced collectivization of failing enterprises. The former Trotskyist has dazzled with his oratory skill, scoring many points for originality by (re)taking the Bastille (political rally, March 18) and lauding civic uprising to build a Sixth Republic on the ashes of the fifth. Could he be rewarded with a ministerial position for helping Hollande? Perish the thought that the ideology that inspired dictators like Stalin or Castro to murder their own people should enter the government again.
On the political class “in denial”: French liberal-minded analysts have long established that politicians are disconnected from economic realities. The Economist added international gravitas to a long-standing argument. If our foreign friends cared to follow, for example, the lively economic chronicles of Nicolas Doze on BFMTV.com or to read the incisive analyses on ContrePoints.org, they would avail themselves of a well articulated, locally brewed liberal perspective. What does it say?
France is now in the terminal stage of political, social and economic reform sclerosis. The two finalists have promised the opposite of the reform medicine now being administered by the European Commission to the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain). Reality will inevitably catch up and it will end in tears.
Sophie Quintin Adalı is an analyst for www.unmondelibre.org, the Francophone project of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.