Sunday, April 29, 2012

The "Rather Dangerous monsieur Hollande"... seriously?

It does not come as a surprise that The Economist should endorse Mr Sarkozy in the French presidential elections, but isn't their cover a bit extreme? It is one thing to support one candidate, it is yet another to use a scary technique to do it. Surely there are better ways to express one's argument, or even to capture it on a cover. This is more like the cover of a tabloid, not that of a great weekly like the Economist.
(That being said, I will continue to read it and will not cancel my subscription because it is still the best weekly on the market)
Besides, I think that the economic policies by either candidate will not be extremely different because of similar constraints and little flexibility in this international and financial context. I think everyone knows that, including a majority of french voters. A little bit less austerity perhaps and probably different types of spending cuts. The difference rather will be about style and discourse, which is more important than one might think. The reason why Sarkozy has been almost constantly low in the polls, from the beginning of his presidency is that his populist style was divisive and aggressive, playing one category of people against another. Sarkozy was not good at giving a sense of unity to the nation, which something the French expect of their president.
In any case, whoever The Economist or Frau Merkel might endorse, it looks like it is going to be hard for Sarkozy to fight the odds - the latest poll show a 10 point margin in favor of Hollande. The debate on Wednesday is unlikely to change that.

Because I am myself an optimist, I'll finish on this more positive excerpt from the Economist's editorial:
Optimists retort that compared with the French Socialist Party, Mr Hollande is a moderate who worked with both Fran├žois Mitterrand, the only previous French Socialist president in the Fifth Republic, and Jacques Delors, Mitterrand’s finance minister before he became president of the European Commission. He led the party during the 1997-2002 premiership of Lionel Jospin, who was often more reformist than the Gaullist president, Jacques Chirac. They dismiss as symbolic Mr Hollande’s flashy promises to impose a 75% top income-tax rate and to reverse Mr Sarkozy’s rise in the pension age from 60 to 62, arguing that the 75% would affect almost nobody and the pension rollback would benefit very few. They see a pragmatist who will be corralled into good behaviour by Germany and by investors worried about France’s creditworthiness.

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