Consider how Hollande’s victory was hailed in 2012 by the media: a man of change,1)François Hollande:“Change everywhere and now!”, Le Point 2012-03-01destiny,2)Hollande vows to change destiny of France, France24 2012-01-23. a new start,3)French President François Hollande promises a new start for Europe, The Guardian 2012-05-06.for Europe and the return of growth.4)After meeting with Merkel, Hollande pusher for growth, CNN 2012-05-16.
The reality turned out not to be even remotely close to the promises: stagnating economy, no wages growth, rising unemployment and debt, both public and private.
Emmanuel Macron was the co-protagonist of the economic decline of France as Minister of the Economy under Hollande, yet 65% of the French voters opted to give the former a second run, endowing him as President with more powers, blaming entirely the latter, who ended the presidency with an abysmal approval rate of 4%,5)Mon Dieu, Hollande’s approval rating is at 4%. Foreign Policy 2016-11-02.
Just like Hollande’s promise to reform the European Union was the “eurobond”,6)Hollande pusher case for eurobonds, The Guardian 2012-05-22.Macron’s goal is the “fiscal union”.7)French economy minister calls for fiscal union in eurozone, The Telegraph 2015-08-31.Since Hollande was met with a deadly “nein” from Merkel and the Bundesbank, we see no reason why Macron could be more successful: while France is the second biggest economy of the Eurozone and thus its size and importance could provide sufficient leverage in negotiations, Hollande’s unwillingness to threaten to leave the negotiation table proved to be his downfall. Similarly, Macron can only be successful in his reform bid when he is ready to announce to dump the failing EU project if he can’t have it his way. As it is, his “Europe first” approach leaves no room for that, ensuring a failure equal to that of his predecessor.
The “fiscal union’’ is Macron’s only major noteworthy item on an otherwise incredibly vague political and
economic program. Hollande’s presidency was plagued with regular attacks by Islamist terrorists, yet Macron did not touch the topic during his political campaign, with the exception of the brush-off “there’s no such thing as French culture’’.8)Emmanuel Macron assume : “Il n’y a pas UNE culture française !”, Profession Spectacle 2017-02-25.
Macron contributed to creating an economy that keeps borrowing, isn’t growing, offers few jobs, while the country is falling victim to terrorism; the message of his campaign was a change that he had already failed to deliver, yet received widespread support. France is likely to continue being under economic occupation of its stronger neighbor Germany.
A final element of weakness could be the composition of the National Assembly after the upcoming elections in June. Macron’s party is unlikely to obtain a majority and thus the parliamentary support for his measures, and will have to rely on a coalition government including Republicans and Socialists. Similar center-right/center-left coalition experiments in recent history in Greece, Spain and Italy have proved to be largely unsuccessful in their reformation attempts, resulting in a further collapse of mainstream parties and gains for ”populists”.
The losers: Marine Le Pen and how the Left became the next victim of globalization.
In 2012 Marine Le Pen obtained almost 18% in the first round, while in 2017 the increase was not that significant as she obtained only 21%. It should be noted, however, that the other far-right candidate Dupont-Aignan went from 1% to almost 5% during the same time frame. In 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen obtained the same 17% in the second round as in the first, while in 2017 Marine obtained 35%, so her defeat was not as resounding as her father’s. To her consolation, she obtained competitive numbers among the French youth, as high as 44% in the second round,9)La Sociologie du vote, Opinion Way 2017-05-07.while polling very low (20%) among the French 65+year-olds. Time might be on her side in 2022.
Much bigger losers of the French election were the mainstream parties: the Republicans of Fillon crumbled under the weight of his corruption scandal, but Hollande’s Socialists started in 2012 from 28% of the vote in the first round, then 51% in the second, and then plummeted to an abysmal 6% under Hamon in 2017. Abandoned by Macron, who let the party take the fall and embarked on a political career with his own movement, the Socialists were crowded out of the political stage by the far-left of Melenchon (19%). The crisis is centering around one theme only: globalization.
Similar splits of the “center-left” can be observed in the Western world: in the United Kingdom, the modern left of Miliband lost the elections and then the control of the party to the old, anti-capitalist left of Corbyn; in the United States, Bernie Sanders with an anti-TPP/TTIP agenda was able to rally behind himself a significant number of supporters who then partially preferred Trump over Hillary. This year, in the Netherlands, the PVDA, the Dutch Labour Party, saw a shrinkage similar to that of the French Socialists: from 24% to 6%.
Melenchon, Sanders and Corbyn are all incarnations of the traditional voting base of the Left, i.e. the working class, that has had enough of their leaders denouncing “neoliberalism” and then abandoning their promises after securing a seat in the government. The other emerging soul of the left is the upper class whites that love travelling around the world, taking advantage of tax havens and cheap labour provided by immigrants, and are largely unaffected by terrorism and ghetto crime rates. The two souls stand diametrically opposed on globalization related issues like trade, free movement of capital and people, yet are reduced to cheer-leading “neoliberals’’ over the “far right”.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||François Hollande:“Change everywhere and now!”, Le Point 2012-03-01|
|2.||↑||Hollande vows to change destiny of France, France24 2012-01-23.|
|3.||↑||French President François Hollande promises a new start for Europe, The Guardian 2012-05-06.|
|4.||↑||After meeting with Merkel, Hollande pusher for growth, CNN 2012-05-16.|
|5.||↑||Mon Dieu, Hollande’s approval rating is at 4%. Foreign Policy 2016-11-02.|
|6.||↑||Hollande pusher case for eurobonds, The Guardian 2012-05-22.|
|7.||↑||French economy minister calls for fiscal union in eurozone, The Telegraph 2015-08-31.|
|8.||↑||Emmanuel Macron assume : “Il n’y a pas UNE culture française !”, Profession Spectacle 2017-02-25.|
|9.||↑||La Sociologie du vote, Opinion Way 2017-05-07.|