20070216

Red blogule to French oldcons, neocons and cons in general

The French are switching from a Left / Right to a Conservative / Progressive political rift. The defining moment was the vote for the European Constitution, with a significant collateral damage : the end of the Socialist Party (PS) as we've known it since Francois Mitterrand claimed it a couple of decades ago.
Reformers from the PS have more in common with reformers from the UMP than with their fellow party members stuck somewhere in the middle of the XIXth Century. Sarkozy and fellow reformers have successfuly sidelined traditional conservatives within their own ranks - a minority of harmless old farts snoring all day long at the Senate.
I'm sure the French economy would perform well with Nicolas Sarkozy, but I'm rather scared by his attacks on secular legislations and his ability to fuel radicalism and fundamentalism. I don't quite like the idea of this man enjoying the support of both US and Israeli fundamentalists and neocons, and even the presence of a Karl Rove wannabe on his side, Brice Hortefeux.
I'd rather see a more moderate kind of reformer rule the country. Francois Bayrou (UDF) has a clear opening since Dominique Strauss-Kahn lost the PS primaries vs Segolene Royal. Should he reach the second round of these elections, he would crush Royal and could even be a problem for Sarkozy (if socialist voters prefer barring Sarko to abstention).

Segolene Royal is not a moderate reformer. She is neither conservative nor reformist. She is an ambitious person used to follow charismatic leaders and has some trouble turning into a charismatic leader radiating with her own views. She keeps putting all opinions at the same level and refusing to take any clear position. As expected and despite a massive victory in the socialist primaries (60%), Royal proved unable to get full support from her own party. A couple of days ago, a group of VIMs from the left (Very Important Women) were considering a petition to call for her withdrawal from the presidential race - just to make sure this wouldn't be interpreted as yet another proof of France's reactionnary machismo (anytime Royal is under attack, she bites with the issue back).
Bayrou may be closing the gap, Royal is still far ahead of the centrist candidate and she still has a large and motivated core of supporters. But she flunked last week-end's exam, introducing a program that didn't really prove disruptive... but for the national budget. A copycat of Mitterrand's 1981 program, which led that man to the top job but the country to the bottom : a massive budget deficit, a big financial crisis and a total loss of international competitivity at a critical moment. Eric Besson, the man in charge of the financial side of Royal program, timely decided to quit after a clash with Francois Holland, secretary general of the PS and Sego's longtime compagnon.
Right now, Sarkozy enjoys a comfortable lead in the polls. But he has also been trapped into a lousy campaign where everybody promises everything to everyone. Even Bayrou, the apostle of budget orthodoxy, claims a 20 billion Euros program.

Ten years ago, France was ahead of Germany in its reforms. But the PM, Alain Juppe, went too far too quick, and Chirac (not so wisely advised by Villepin) decided to dissolve the assembly. The PS won the 1997 elections and Lionel Jospin surfed on the internet bubble years to post nice growth rates, but also to reform the country the wrong way (more spendings and the mother of all mistakes ; the 35-hour Week). Chirac won again in 2002 but limited new reforms to cautious steps when his neighbor Gerhard Schroeder would take all the risks. Schroeder lost to Merkel but Germany is now much fitter than France to face future challenges.
Here's the new deal for France : an economic breakdown with Segolene Royal, a political gamble with Nicolas Sarkozy. Should Francois Bayrou win next May, he would have the opportunity to form a new party with socialist and UMP moderate reformers. Instead of going down by turning right or left, France must try to go and grow up.

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