Saturday, May 05, 2012

The French second round ballot: stormy skies ahead for France and Europe

Useless vote getter
So tomorrow Saturday I have to cast my second round ballot at the French embassy of Caracas.  I will vote for Sarkozy but I can assure you that I am not doing it happily.  He will lose the election and he deserves to lose: he made too many P.R. errors in the earlier part of his term that he was unable or unwilling to amend for, he wasted precious time to push critical reforms and the crisis caught him  pants down, depriving of real reform options.  Truly he managed the crisis rather well, but electorates rarely understand such subtleties.

Then the second round campaign was nasty.  I do understand that he had no other choice but to court the National Front (FN) voters of Marine Le Pen who came at a surprising and astounding 18%.  Sarkozy personally has demonstrated that he is a democrat, a gruff one maybe but a real one.  So I never believed his posturing, but I also expect that for opposite reasons fewer than he needs in that 18% will buy it (according to some polls up to a third may end up voting for Hollande anyway, preferring to sink the democratic center right at any cost believing that it will open the door for their control of the opposition to Hollande).  Still, his courting of FN voters was often unbecoming and thus probably counter productive even among his own UMP party.

But Hollande second round campaign was hardly any better than Sarkozy.  He kept promising things that he knows he cannot fulfill.  He kept hiding as much as possible the cost of his measures.  And  he even dared to court a share of the 18% of Le Pen, while letting Sarkozy care the burden of guilt....  As a consequence his expected victory will be tainted with more populism than necessary, will force him to jettison the austerity efforts that Sarkozy tried to do these past two years without giving them a chance to do some good,  and thus will increase the final crisis bill for France.  Quite irresponsible if you ask me, with a real possibility for disaster and unraveling of the Euro (Greece also votes this Sunday and poor Rajoy maybe left alone holding the bag as all run for their lives and forget about their duties to future generations).

She does get votes......
A Euro disaster in the making.......

I must say for Hollande that he is a decent man and that he may realize soon enough that he needs to stop and pay the price for the promises he will not be able to fulfill.  Then again, his electoral maneuvering may have unforeseen consequences that will push him close to the abyss as he may be unable to control his socialist party and his far left "allies" that will pass the check for their support next Sunday.

As soon as the presidential election is over, within a week Hollande takes office, names a new cabinet and the campaign for legislative elections start.  The socialists are going to be unable to resist cashing in from the errors of Sarkozy in courting the FN too hard.  There is now a real risk that there is going to be major tide for the socialists, not because of their total votes but because of the FN vote which may well reach 20%, mortally dividing the right. Because their euphoric victory, their perception that the right will get trounced no matter how many votes it gets, the socialistic may think they can get a majority by themselves and thus not be afraid of offering plenty of seats to their extreme left allies.

In French legislative elections the strict rule of the top two vote winners do not apply for the second round: that is, if no one gets 50%+1, then all the candidates that get more than 12.5% are allowed to run again and the top getter wins the seat the following Sunday, even if s/he gets less than 50%.  The FN will be emboldened, will demand the post Sarkozy UMP to negotiate alliances to give them seats in exchange of their withdrawal for the second round.  See, with the results of two weeks ago the FN is expected to pass the 12.5% mark in at least 10% of the districts and in those districts without a pact between FN and UMP the left will win, all of them with less than 50% votes.  We call these races "triangulaires" and they are deadly (they also were deadly when they happened between socialists and communists thus favoring de Gaulle).

The UMP will have little options because whatever it may gain from a putative alliance with the FN it may lose it by Bayrou going all the way in an alliance with the socialists, something he finally came out of the closet yesterday.  See, he directs a modest centrist movement that did not get 10%.  And he always resented the UMP and Sarkozy for not giving him the position he decided he deserved (I really do not like him, he is a bore, and a boring writer at that).  Yesterday he announced that he would vote for Hollande, sealing his victory.  I suppose he is about to make a grand coalition with the socialists although I doubt they are willing to give him 5% of the seats he will demand in the next election.  One thing is certain, even if he were to decide an electoral alliance with the UMP post Sarkozy (this one has said that if he loses Sunday he will withdraw from politics as soon as he surrenders the keys of the Elysee Palace) such an alliance will be nonviable because too many in the UMP will consider him responsible for the final disaster that is about to happen Sunday.

So this latest mercurialness (word?) of Bayrou may cost him dearly because he did not need to endorse Hollande whatsoever and thus if he did it as a gamble, without making a prior deal with the socialists he may end up once again with Zero seats....  But his havoc will be caused elsewhere.  I thought a few weeks ago that whomever wins next Sunday would not be able to get a parliamentary majority next month.  Now things may have changed as the socialists are probably going to get a handsome majority not supported by any actual voting strength.  Or worse, they will fail to get the majority barely and will need to really on a strong green and commie support for a majority (a return to 1997 and "la gauche plurielle" which lost itself in reforms that are handicapping France's economy today).

Unfortunately for France this potential large sweep for the socialist comes at a dismal time: after 10 years of right wing government, the French electorate has done what it always does: vote local against the party in office, to punish it for whatever ills they think it does.  Nothing wrong in a way but this past decade the pendulum has gone much harder than it usually goes in such cases as all regions but one are in the hands of socialists and a large, very large majority of town halls are also in the hands of socialist.  In a time of fear, or needed restraint, the socialists in fact will have no one willing to rein them in, to temper their excesses (as in 1981).  As far as memory serves me it is possible that bland Hollande, with plenty of cantankerous prima donne inside his leftist alliance, will be the president inaugurated with the most power since de Gaulle, and probably more than de Gaulle if it were not for European rules and treaties.

Of course, all of this is not certain, but clouds are gathering fast towards that horizon.

On a last note: the idiocy of the UMP and Sarkozy even reaches me as I am voting for them....  For the first time French people living abroad will get the right to elect representatives to parliament.  Something very progressive, brought to you by Sarkozy, in case you think he is a jerk.  Well, the right will go divided for the South American seat!  See, the UMP decided to nominate someone that represents French big business, sponsors for their campaigns I am sure.  True, the guy travels a lot in South America but...  he lives in France!  So a group of locals got pissed and decided to run a woman who has lived in Brazil for over a decade or two (I forgot how many) as a "dissident UMP".  I will be voting for her hoping that the other guy loses badly to teach a lesson to these idiots in UMP Paris office.  The other candidate is a socialist living in Colombia and you will forgive me that unless I meet him personally and know first hand his position on Chavez there is no way I will consider voting for him, whatsoever.  Fortunately I may get to meet him and report back to you.  If interested enough to have read this far :)


    is what Krugman thinks. Do you agree? I tend to agree with him, though I hate populism and fiscal irresponsibility, what Krugman says could be done right.

    1. Well, I do link to Krugman on the right :-)

      We should not put all in the same bag. What the Germans are asking from Spain is excessive AND counter productive. Greece should be booted out of Euro outright. But France is actually doing Krugman like stuff. For example pushing by two years retirement was a modest austerity reform without limiting financial incentives for growth. What Hollande may do is revert this necessary step and push France the Italian way.

  2. Merci. I enjoyed your analysis.

  3. What I find mind -boggling is that given the financial situation of France and the crisis of the Euro-zone that there are still people so uninformed as to vote socialist to increase government spending...just another proof of how ideology doesn't think."It" thinks " them".

    It seems like the era of even temporary belt tightening or gratification postponement is a thing of the past.

    What is happening to people's sense of purpose, of responsibility, of maturity and of their love of work and contribution?

    As for the far right voting for Hollande just to make things worse so they can take over, pure insanity.

  4. Yes, there are people "so totally uninformed" as to support deficit spending, for example Nobel-Prize winner Krugman, referenced above. In Britain, the austerity plan has been a disaster, and was roundly condemned by the electorate in this week's voting. Here's Krugman's analysis of why austerity is "Ideologically convenient wishful thinking".

    1. Jeffry house,

      Nobel prizes are ideologically motivated at the expense of common sense and merit.

      I agree with Daniel that what is needed is modest austerity reform which is already too much for those who only believe in constantly increasing benefits and entitlements like Hollande who wants to put back retirement age back to 60.

    2. Charly10:01 PM

      What is really needed in that country is for employees of the public sector to get off their butts and start considering the work environment with a little bit of seriousness. Those working in the private sector cannot pull it all by themselves. From personal experience, this country is a disgrace with 2 classes of workers, the fat public sector and the private sector where employees work routinely until 8-9 o'clock at night. A country simply cannot function like that.

  5. Hollande's promise to undo Sarkozy's pension reforms are truly reckless. The last thing France (or the rest of the developed world needs) is more handouts for the elderly.

  6. Boah...estoy viendo France misma periodista dice "le président sortant" y "le président candidat" al referirse a Sarko que está votando ahora mismo.
    Una periodista de VTV diría "nuestro presidente-comandante eterno"

    En el sitio de France 24 hay un contador que indica cuántas horas faltan para que se den los resultados...igualito que en Venezuela donde estamos acostumbrados a esperar hasta las 3 am.

  7. Y ni un solo milico.

  8. Island Canuck3:19 PM

    Alberto Ravell ‏ @AlbertoRavell
    Primeros sondeos en Francia dan ganador a Hollande.

    1. Oh, Canuck, no te pares bola a Albertito. Aunque es lo más probable que gane Hollande, Alberto sabe menos de lo que pasa fuera de Caracas que cualquiera.

  9. Island Canuck7:17 PM

    Maybe this will satisfy Kepler. ‏ @DiarioTalCual
    HOLLANDE A LA CABEZA Sondeos dan como vencecedor de las presidenciales francesas a François Hollande con un 53

    1. Canuck,
      I know. All I am saying is that you shouldn't pay attention to Ravel at all, out of principle. You can get your international news directly from plenty of English or Spanish sources that are more reliable than that guy.

      Although the French TV doesn't say it until 8pm, I watch Sarkozy voting and he showed as much insecurity and gloomy mood as he ever has done. He is toast.

  10. Hollande won.
    Thanks, btw, Daniel for outlining the issues which earlier were "chino" for me.

    1. Markets will be depressed for a few days next week.

  11. Charly9:35 PM

    It is in defeat that you recognize the character. On the short term, I am more interested in Sarkozy's comportment than Hollande's. Shall come back to see how this one is doing in a couple of years. Will I have to buy Euros or Francs for my next stay in Paris?

  12. Anonymous12:13 AM

    "What I find mind -boggling is that given the financial situation of France and the crisis of the Euro-zone that there are still people so uninformed as to vote socialist to increase government spending..." Yet people are well informed on the fact that they can't afford private healthcare, schooling, and that they will be hardest hit by austerity measures.


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