The French Presidential Election

Despite the fact that quality of life is actually very good in France, there is clearly a French malaise. People have a (real) sense of stagnation as their standard of living is not increasing as fast as it could and countries that used to be 20-30% poorer than France 25 years ago are now wealthier on a GDP per capita basis (e.g.; the UK).

In many cases there is an understanding of the fundamental problems but no political or for that matter popular support for making any changes. Sarkozy is clearly more dedicated to making changes, but I wonder how effective he will be. He has no real knowledge of economics. He still seems to want to protect “poor French companies from evil foreign companies” when they try to take them over and thus perpetrates counter-productive economic nationalism. Moreover, will he have the political courage to stare down a national strike when it inevitably happens as he tries to reform the country?

He does not have the clarity of purpose of a Margaret Thatcher or the smoothness, charm and overall public support Tony Blair had. Arguably it would be easier for a Tony Blair or Bill Clinton-type to reform France. If only for perception reasons, it’s easier to credibly speak of market driven solutions that don’t sacrifice equity when speaking from the left. But no such figure on the left has emerged or is electable. Doing it from the right is likely to be divisive and one can question if Sarkozy will stay the course given his desire to be pragmatic, especially since he does not have the unthreatening image someone like David Cameron has in the UK.

I suppose all this makes him the least bad choice rather than the best choice and it’s going to be interesting to see what ends up happening. I suppose in the meantime I can be cautiously optimistic!

  • Maybe being a bit of a cynic, but I wonder if France wouldn’t benefit from Royal winning, and getting a bit more malaise in the short term.

    It seems to me that the french are still very averse to change, and they don’t want to acknowledge what needs to be done to get the country on the right track again.
    Maybe having a socialist president, and the acceleration of the decline that would result in would be a good thing and open up the field for someone who did have the purpose and courage to do to France what Thacher did for Britain.

  • What was probably more interesting (worrying) for me was the 4% for Besancenot, and then there was the clipping of wings for Le Pen. What I observe has been that some of the real issues do get raised, but they are generally swamped in non-real issues and are certainly treated with non-ideal solutions. Let’s see if a clarification of the candidates can clarify the issues. I think the naming of the cabinet and the strength of the government majority will be interesting, if not any more enlightening or effective.

  • Wille, I don’t think you can compare France’s situation today with that of England when Thatcher came to power. Don’t forget that between 1978 and 1983, Britain’s manufacturing output had dropped by 30%! GDP is higher in Britain but so is the cost of living. Personally I moved back to France even though I was making more than twice as much money in England. I agree that France needs more flexibility, but the situation isn’t that dire, yet…

  • One thing I like about Sarkozy is that he has set a target of 5% unemployement rate (today it’s nearly 9%) AND he said that all his ministers will have one year renewable terms which will be renewed based on each year results.

    At least a result-oriented approach!

    Otherwise I agree with most posts… we’re in trouble here in France!