viernes, 1 de noviembre de 2013

On France´s Presidential Election: A Race for the Spoils

It seems the time has finally come for us bloggers and everyone else to cease talking about the US presidential race. The whole thing is planned, rehearsed and locked.
But come to think of it, it is not over just yet. It might provide some insight into what is wbout to happen in France. As the French rush to the polls tomorrow morning, they are faced with a terrible question: Europe or ourselves?
It is truly unreasonable to assume that whoever is the next French president will not continue pressing for a further redrawing of European borders and policies. However, that is certainly a matter of concern as nearly 3 million French currently struggle for a job. The pivotal role assumed by Nicolas Sarkozy in the Euro crisis has exposed the French to a great many risks, placing them at the forefront of the battle for the European dream alongside the much better armed Germans.
Sarkozy´s push for a Buy European Act for public contracts is certainly appealing to many other European economies, but it is not enough to appease undecided voters, who now live with a bigger state  infrastructure. The outrage over Sarkozy´s travelling lifestyle is affecting his image as an austere option to rule France, but I do not believe that it should be given much attention. Here is why:
  • There are too many candidates: The surplus of names to choose from is a problem, because it polarizes opinion far too much, pretty much creating the need for a second round which is almost always confirmatory of the first´s result. With only two or three names on the ballot, the decision would be simpler. And those who advocate for voting blank or not voting altogether would get a lesson (as they do every election year) on popular understanding of the need for a stable, well settled state.
  • The campaign has not been convincing: With so many unemployed among the voting ranks, the candidates have had to turn to staunch populism in order just to stay afloat in the polls, with the hard right, unsurprisingly, making away with a mere 2%. Such measures have taken the whole campaign to a poor level of argumenting and worse proposing.
  • The proposals are not sustainable: Le-Pen´s strong focus on immigration makes her the element not to look at. In spite of the importance of the immigration problem, is is not the only one out there asher campaign has made us all believe. It is almost as if she thought that kicking all immigrants would solve all the ails of the French economy. Never mind the Euro or the debt of the Eurozone; opposite is Melenchon, whose leftist extremist views do not sit well with an electorate who learned to be careful after electing and reelecting Mitterrand, not to mention that in times of crisis, the right is always preferred; Bayrou´s third presidential run ought to each him not to seek the long gone dream. In a way, he reminds me a bit of Ron Paul in the USA. He is the one who keeps a reserve of swing votes in his pocket for the party to use when in need; Hollande´s ideas for a more austere France would have a nefarious effect on French economy on the mid term. Increasing the minimum wage in a country with high taxation would force the informal employment. Not that it does not exist already, but having it increased is cooking a social revolt to spring in a few years, when his proposed reduction of retirement age is already taking its toll on a weakened France due to ECB loans and bailouts. One of the left´s traditional and most debilitating problems is its lack of willingness to accept the unstoppable course of history and fact.
Now, by the numbers. Sarkozy and Hollande comprise about 40% of the polled. That is not enough to write off a second round, especially when one considers the amount of candidates, and the vote division this will certainly cause. But a second round actually sounds a bit scarier in this sense for both Sarkozy  and Hollande, since many of those whose candidate is eliminated in the first round will quite likely become abstentionists in the second, leaving the election able to produce only a partially legitimate president and setting a grim stage for the parliamentary elections in June.
For that reason, the candidates´ rally to get the undecided, the spoils of the social construct, to elect them has been nothing but irregular. The candidates do not have clear answers in their proposals for the pressing questions. Hence, it might just be in France´s best interest to stay with their rockstar president, who will threaten much and many, but actually will only give continuity to the projects already in motion, which in times of crisis like these should be appreciated by any electorate.
UPDATE: With the official results out, the predictable happened. Hollande will take on Sarkozy on 6 May. What is surprising to me is that the left is actually having such a chance in France. Change is not the option for France in this moment. My forecast: Hollande will be elected president on 6 May by a 10% margin over Sarkozy. The hard right that voted Le Pen today will rather become abstentionist and form an opposition coalition with the center. There will be an euphoria over Hollande´s presidency, but the rightist opposition will prove his shortcomings before June, when about 55-60% of parliament will be conservative and there will be an avalanche of checks and balances that will trigger malcontent with the left, yet again.

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