Friday, January 21, 2011

Hollande Becomes Credible?

Yes, the polls are in, and it seems that just about any Socialist can beat Sarkozy in 2012, except perhaps Ségolène Royal. Sure, one can't take polls seriously at this stage of the game, but still, the signs are unmistakable. And perhaps the most surprising thing about Sarkozy's collapse is that it has restored some of François Hollande's lost luster. Royal may have lost the 2007 election, but it was Hollande's party that aided and abetted the defeat of his former compagne--and not without a certain unseemly alacrity. But now Hollande is back, and Françoise Fressoz speculates that it is thanks to his judicious playing of the sobriety card. The voters have had enough of their Café de Commerce president and are ready to see a little sérieux restored to the Élysée.

I don't think this is right, but I do think that Hollande has played his cards remarkably well. Too many observers have assumed that the contest is between DSK and Aubry, with Royal in the role of spoiler. The famous "pact" all but officialized this program for the PS primaries. If "Dominique" runs, we're all behind him, Ségolène went so far as to say on television, but meanwhile, since he doesn't appear to be running anywhere very fast ... But Dominique's main trump card was his good second-round polling, and as Sarko has further declined, that no longer seems quite so important. Nor does Aubry, weakened by continued internal bickering and her confused position on retirement reform, seem like the inevitable alternative. Furthermore, her strength in the primaries should not be taken for granted. Hollande, who has his own base among party militants, could outstrip her as the alternative to Royal. And he might well be the better candidate in the general election--indeed, the best candidate, because he does know the dossiers and is quicker with a sound bite than any of the others.

I've never found Hollande a very compelling personality, but he could grow on me if he were to emerge as the alternative to another 5 years of Sarkozy. I suspect, moreover, that he would be far more acceptable to the extragovernmental parties of the Left and Right than Strauss-Kahn, who is vulnerable to the populist attacks of Marine Le Pen, Olivier Besancenot, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. If DSK is the candidate, the PS could bleed votes to the FN, PG, or NPA in the first round and to Sarkozy in the second. This would be less likely with Hollande, I suspect. And Hollande is not as closely tied to the 35-hr week as Aubry, nor is he the daughter of Jacques Delors (Mr. Europe, another target of both the anti-EU extreme left and the anti-EU extreme right).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think there's a distortion here: as several polling institute analysts pointed out during a recent C dans l'air, the media like Hollande second-best after DSK, so anything he says or does will be echoed more widely than what another candidate would do. He does have party loyalty among party members, and quite a few members would certainly choose him over a few other candidates. But I don't think his appeal translates well into the general population. He's very wishy-washy and can't speak clearly to save his life (although he can crack a joke.)
The problem is that Aubry's too uninspiring, DSK too absent, Hamon too dogmatic. Montebourg is organized and likable but he's not getting much coverage; Valls aligns himself on Sarkozy in his speech patterns and is unlikely to reach a large base on the left because of it (he used "ceux qui se lèvent tôt" to mean "working classes" just last week, making his UMP opponent smile in delight); Royal is getting coverage, with strong performances this week in the printed press and in the North (officially, near Hénin Beaumont as an attack on MLP) but the polls indicate she's not making inroads (except among the working and lower-middle classes, a group neither DSK nor Hollande appear to reach). In short, Hollande also benefits from the lack of leadership in the PS. They need a candidate who will list his/her platform with a couple bullet points, as a starter. If they keep going like this for 8 months, I wonder how Sarkozy can fail even with such dismal popularity.