THE FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: WHAT DO THEY SIGNIFY?
"Like the vast majority of the western world, France has lived well above her means for decades. Under your presidency, she must start on a healthier course. The challenge is ethical as much as political, economic and social. Without greater social justice, without the “fairness” you so often mention, the agonising but necessary reappraisal of our lifestyle cannot be considered. Equity and realism go hand in hand. But justice cannot be an end in itself in today’s world, which is more interdependent and competitive than ever. In the Scandinavian countries – which may partially serve you as a model – there is no contradiction between the scrupulous respect of a national “social contract”, ensuring an acceptable gap between rich and poor, and economic liberalism. A middle way can be found between discouraging the rich and humiliating the poor, dictated by realism, moderation and common sense. France more than ever needs innovative, competitive businesses bent on international conquest. The state is no substitute for their energy. Its role should be to protect the weakest while encouraging the creativity of its most dynamic citizens. The state alone cannot relaunch economic growth. Of course France, as much as Europe or the US, needs to invest in infrastructure. In some areas, we are lagging far behind the newly emerging countries of Asia. Yet, given our debt levels, and the reasonable and necessary constraints of the EU, to dream of a French or European “Super New Deal” is simply unrealistic.... In short, Mr President, our country needs courageous reforms that must this time be implemented in full. Fairness is a precondition, not an end in itself. Fairness will not affect the structural imbalance between French and German competitiveness. To reconcile the French among themselves does not mean cutting them off from global realities. France needs a patient, modest pedagogue who will reassure the country and, with energy and common sense, set it on a path of structural reform. It is a huge task that cannot be undertaken in a spirit of revenge or of ideological escapism. You have taken it upon yourself to fit your character and your resolve to the task of being president. You are up to that task. Don’t disappoint us". Dominique Moisi, "Please Mr. President, use your economic sense". The Financial Times. 7 May 2012, in www.ft.com "The Standard of living has turned into Pandora' box in every country. It is the focus of half of world politics". Charles de Gaulle quoted in Andre Malraux. Fallen Oaks: conversations with De Gaulle. (1971). p. 21. Over and above the specifics of the defeat of Nicolas Sarkozy by the Socialist candidate, there are elements which transcend the mauvais ton nature of the now defeated President. Which is not to gainsay the fact that indeed, au fond, Monsieur Sarkozy did not uphold the regal image that the Fifth Republic endows its Presidents with. Judged on that basis only, Monsieur Sarkozy did indeed deserve to win. In addition of course, is that fact that like almost every other ruling party in the European Union, which has faced re-election in the past two years and the onset of the current economic crisis in the European Union, the odds were indeed stacked against the incumbent President. Over and above these negative variables and even when added to the populist backlash provoked by the German-inspired 'austerity' regime, is the following fact: that overall, the ten years of Rightist, UMP government, has been in economic terms a failure. A failure pur et simple. The fact speaks for themselves: in percentage terms, France's economic performance since 2002 elections and the beginning of the Right's complete control of government, has been less than what it was under the co-habitation of the neo-Gaullist, Jacques Chirac (as President) and the Socialist, Lionel Jospin (as Prime Minister). Both indeed in terms of GDP growth and in terms of exports, the overall record of the Right has been, nothing other than a failure. Indeed, the failure stands out particularly well, when once compares the relative performances of France and Germany in the years in question. And while Nicolas Sarkozy, entered into office, promising a 'rupture', in terms of French economic performance, he proved to be unable to deliver on his promises. Hence, the grealy increased vote in the first-round of the Presidential elections for both the extreme Right and the Extreme Left 2. Please make no mistake: I seriously doubt, unlike Dominique Moisi, that Monsieur Holland, the newly elected President, will be able to fulfill many of the promises that he endeavored (not very successfully it would appear given the narrowness of his victory), to entrance the public with. With his opposite number in Berlin, no doubt only willing to oblige him to the smallest extent about any ideas as they relate to a 'growth agenda', for the European Union. And it I also doubt indeed, that Monsieur Holland will be the French equivalent of Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor whose reforms helped to pave the way for Germany's economic revival of the past half-dozen years. Instead what I foresee is that France will continue on a path of mediocre economic performance, which has the end-result of binding it further and further to an economically more dynamic Germany. Making the idea of that the European project is a joint-one between Paris and Berlin, more and more a hollow one. And of course putting paid forever to the notion expressed by then French President, Giscard D'Estaing, circa 1976, that with sufficient effort the French could catch-up and the surpass Germany economically speaking 3. 1. For this see, the useful web site: www.tradingeconomics.com/france. 2. The Economist. "Number-crunching: the only way for Sarkozy to win." The Economist. 30th of April 2012, in www.economist.com. 3. Quoted in Sir Nicholas Henderson. Mandarin: the diaries of Nicholas Henderson. (1994), pp. 132, 225 and passim.Henderson of course being Her Majesty's Ambassador to France, from 1975-1979.