Monday, April 16, 2012

Other Countries Have Elections Too: France Edition

While most people here are caught up in either the Alberta provincial election or the upcoming Ontario election (if God hates us, anyways), the nation which spawned much of our liberal democratic idealism has been devolving into an absolute mess as its presidential election rolls along, a tumbling pile of right-vs.-left that could see four for six possible contenders for the presidency, depending on whether or not they can make it to a run-off that will almost certainly happen, since there isn't any way in hell someone will get 50% outright given that the leader is currently sitting at 28%.

I am, of course, talking about France.

While personally I find British and German elections more fascinating than French ones, this presidential campaign is a bundle of joy for someone like me, who somewhat enjoys political chaos. And it is a mess, though at the very least, you can claim more-or-less two frontrunners, Gaullist incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, and Socialist challenger François Hollande. Sitting right behind them is the near-fascist Marine Le Pen and near-Marxist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and business liberal François Bayrou behind them.

You can sort of guess what comes out of this situation. Both Sarkozy and Hollande, who are increasingly threatened on their ideological flanks, have shifted their positions from "reasonable" (both could be considered moderates) to outright nutty.

For Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, he's had to go about attacking immigrants and immigration, promising cuts to entry visas and tougher measures to combat crime, which in France is fairly tilted towards immigrants, sad as that is. All this to try and ensure Marine Le Pen doesn't siphon off enough votes so that Sarkozy and his Gaullist UMP party doesn't end up third, and out of any runoff.

For Hollande, it means musing about a 75% tax rate on those making more than a million euros per year. Yes, yes it is insane - not as insane as Mélenchon's 100% tax rate for those making over €360,000!!! Hollande is less likely to fall behind Mélenchon, but he's still a danger anyways.

And folks, this is just a preview of whats going on over there. I suggest you take a look at this gentleman's site, a very well done blog on world elections, and he has a special focus on French and European politics. He's from the Ottawa area too.

Who would I vote for, you ask? (Yeah I know you didn't but deal with it.)

Personally, as much as I can understand the issues (and the language where translation isn't available/worthless), Bayrou would likely be my first round choice. A solid business platform and one that, while not perfect, actually addressed France's fiscal problems. The man should be President, for God's sake.

And frankly, I'm unsure whether I'd vote for Hollande in a second round vote; yes, he's likely just pulling a Mitt Romney ideological shift, but it's still pretty scary stuff. But Sarkozy is a buffoon. Fuck it, I'll just abstain.

But hey, here's a better question: who would Mulcair vote for? Can we tie him to the Socialists? Oh yes, please, please let's tie him to the 75% tax bracket!


  1. This is what happens when you have two polarizing political opponents

  2. Replace "polarizing" with "boring" and you've hit the mark. There is probably remarkedly little difference between Sarkozy and Hollande in reality. They're both "moderates" for their parties.

    Unless you're referring to Le Pen and Melenchon, then yeah, this is what happens.

  3. Actually, Catherine Mulcair ( Mulcair's wife) ran for the Conservatives in France. I don't think he would support Hollande.

  4. She didn't run "in" France, she ran in their little expat assembly. And I doubt she ran for the Presidential Majority.

  5. I misspoke, she ran for the french legislature (as an expat). However, she ran for the conservative list. That's said, french conservatives are to the left of the NDP :)

  6. She did run for the Presidential Majority.

  7. As the gentleman behind the blog you were nice enough to cite, I'd like to offer a few comments - I appreciate your blog and I often lurk to get political news closer to home. At any rate;

    1. Sarkozy is not really a 'Gaullist' and the UMP isn't a Gaullist party. A few people still masquerade as Gaullists, but Gaullism probably died in either 1971 with the old man or in 1974 with Chaban's trouncing. Since then, Gaullism has been recycled by opportunistic politicians to fit their ideological moods and legitimize their policies. Chirac used Gaullism to cover both his Reaganite neoliberalism of the 1980s, his populist "social"/'fracture sociale' agenda in 1995, and his do-nothing conservatism of 95-07. Sarkozy furthermore has always been seen as being on the 'liberal' side of the old Chiraquien-Gaullist party.
    2. Bayrou isn't really a business liberal. To be honest, he too has the ideological consistency of Mitt Romney and on top of that, it is much easier to know what he doesn't like than what he actually proposes. His whole shtick since 2007 has been to be a 'respectable' anti-establishment/anti-system candidate who whines a lot about left-right politics even though he was a right-winger until 2002. He recently came up with a pretty cheaply populist French protectionist thing ('produire et consommer francais' ), ironic coming from him.
    3. French politicians have an ideological consistency which would make Romney look like an icon of political consistency. The gap between the PS' rhetoric and its policies since 1983 has been second only to the Spanish Socialists. Hollande will be hard pressed to lower retirement age to 60 and do this 75% tax thing, but the PS cannot afford to go the Mitterrand-Mauroy socialist route tried in 1981-1983 any longer. Sarkozy is a populist and an opportunistic one at that. Seen as an elitist ultra-liberal, he won in 2007 with the support of far-right voters and strong support (for a right-winger) with the working-class. If promising mass regularization of illegals would be politically lucrative for him, he'd campaign on that. Since it isn't, and since his strategy doesn't allow for that, well, uhm.

    Great blog, I hope you keep it going!

    1. Thanks for clarifying a lot of this, I appreciate it a lot! As I mentioned I haven't paid the greatest amount of attention to France, except through your site, which I must say is fantastic and I try to model a bit after concerning some of my projections and reports of whats going electorally, though you're quite a bit more in-depth than I am.

      If you see this again, I was wondering if you could answer a question for me: because I'm Canadian, I usually try and fit other nation's parties along what our spectrum looks like. I know its hardly ever a perfect fit but it makes sense to me. In relation to France, though, which party would you consider the "Liberal" party? Or at least, a centrist party that could hold significant power? I know there's little ones like MoDem and NC, but could they compete as a third wheel for power in time, or not?

  8. Thanks for your great comments on my blog, I really appreciate them. You'll always have an edge over me in terms of predictions, I can't risk doing those for risk of getting seriously humiliated! :)

    The LPC is pretty uniquely Canadian, especially in terms of a centrist party which is/was in serious competition for power. Ideologically, the MoDem or the PRG are probably closest, but the MoDem is basically 'Get Dear Leader Bayrou Elected' party and the PRG is a joke. The PS and UMP are just naturally closer to the NDP and Tories respectively, but I suppose you could say they have the LPC's "style" of being where it is electorally convenient for them to be!

    In the past, the old Radicals were very clearly like the Liberals in everything they did, of being centrist and left and right at the same time and of appealing to everybody without anybody loving them and their main ideological markers (internationalism, some centrist/capitalist economy, opposition to Church and state) in general. The old MRP and 'centre d'opposition' under the General was in some aspects like the LPC, but the later UDF became more like the old PCs or Atlantic Tories.

    I once had fun with drawing up French electoral maps on the basis of Canada's party system, and, tellingly, pinning down where the LPC would win or have strongholds was tough.

    1. Thanks a lot Gael, look forward to seeing your analysis on the 22nd!

  9. I know Gael from another website. He knows his stuff when it comes to France.