Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Will "Pas Voté" Win the First Round?

The abstainers may outnumber the supporters of the winning candidate in the first round of voting. That is the depressing finding of an IFOP poll, which predicts a sharp decline from the 84% participation rate of 2007:
Le sondage de l’Ifop publié dimanche dernier a mis le doigt sur le risque majeur de cette élection : le retour d’une abstention forte. Seuls 68% des électeurs se disent « certains d’aller voter ». Il est bien possible que, parmi les 32% restants, des hésitants se rendent finalement aux urnes. La certitude est néanmoins là, confirmée par d’autres indicateurs comme ceux de la Sofres : on sera loin des 84% de participation de 2007, très probablement en dessous des 78% de 1995, sans forcément descendre jusqu’aux 62,6% de 2002.
Philippe Guibert, the author of "Plaidoyer pour une gauche populaire," diagnoses a campaign that has failed to address the concerns of the popular classes. This has become a familiar refrain in a part of the left. It's the obverse of the critique that holds that the problem of many modern democracies, and not just France, is "populism," that is, a revolt of the popular classes based on a belief that the powers of government to oppose, thwart, or reverse potent economic forces is greater than it actually is and therefore a refusal to accept certain types of reform (the fight over retirement reform in France is a good example, but one can find equally telling examples in the United States with a right-wing political valence, such as the refusal to raise the debt ceiling).

The problem with Guibert's critique of the establishment left, and of other similar critiques, is that it assumes that "elites" could in fact address the concerns of "the popular classes" without compromising their own core beliefs. In short, it's clear that many voters are disaffected with "elite" solutions, but it's not at all clear what Guibert thinks should be done about that. More pandering and fudging, as Hollande has done with his pseudo-rollback of Sarkozy's retirement reform, which only changes the rules around the margins? In any case, here is his characterization of the failing of even the "populist" candidates of the extreme left and extreme right to mobilize the disillusioned:
Jean-Luc Mélenchon développe une très belle indignation, accompagnée d’une radicalisation dans les propositions sociales – Smic à 1 700 euros net et retraite à 60 ans pour tous. Mais cette radicalisation sociale semble ignorer l’ouverture de notre économie aux autres pays européens et aux émergents, alors qu’elle existe de façon bien réelle dans la vie des milieux populaires du privé. C’est sans doute pour cette raison qu’il ne parvient pas, pour l’instant, à effectuer de percée décisive dans le vote populaire, même si il y a gagné des points. A l’inverse, M Le Pen a construit sa campagne, elle, sur une radicalisation économique : sortie de l’euro et protectionnisme national. En y perdant en crédibilité personnelle et en oubliant du coup les « fondamentaux » de son électorat, immigration et islam. Depuis l’automne et la velléité de référendum grec, les Français sont massivement favorables, à près de 85%, à l’euro : le retour au franc a nettement reculé dans l’opinion, tout particulièrement dans les milieux populaires et ce sont les Grecs qu’on verrait bien sortir de l’euro...
He's right that Mélenchon simply ignores France's deep implication in the global economy. I don't quite know what to say about his contention that Marine Le Pen is losing ground because she forgets "the fundamentals" of her base, "immigration and Islam." Would he have her take an even harder line on these subjects? What would our neo-populist social critic recommend?

So, is the problem politicians who are not worthy of "the people," or a "people" reluctant to face the harsh realities of a changing world? Sometimes the call for a more radical approach is really a call for a more intransigent conservatism. Sarkozy actually recognized this in 2007, when he organized his campaign around the concept of "rupture" and "overcoming all conservatisms." This year, however, he has given in to the "populist" diagnosis that his advisor Patrick Buisson shares in many ways with Philippe Guibert. And to judge by the high forecast abstention rate, this strategic choice has only demobilized the target audience, which doesn't believe in his change of heart.

Renaud Dehousse on Necessary Institutional Changes at the EU Level

Here:
Il y a maintenant sur ce principe un accord assez général. En revanche, on entend plusieurs sons de cloche dès que l’on aborde la question des moyens par lesquels la croissance doit être encouragée. Une douzaine de gouvernements ont récemment écrit à M. Barroso pour demander un effort accru de libéralisation (réforme du marché du travail, déréglementation de certaines professions, etc.). La gauche européenne, elle, pousse à la mise en place d’un système d’Euro-obligations, qui pourrait financer certains grands travaux d’intérêt stratégique. Vu les contraintes qui pèsent sur les finances publiques nationales, il serait logique que l’initiative vienne de l’Europe. Cependant, nombre de gouvernements ne l’entendent pas de cette oreille : dans les négociations sur les perspectives financières qui s’ouvrent, plusieurs d’entre eux ont annoncé qu’ils espéraient obtenir une réduction du budget européen.

The Times Looks at Mélenchon

Here.

The "Official" Campaign Begins ... and Hollande Is Still Ahead

Yesterday, the "official" presidential campaign began, and the CSA began to impose still stricter rules on TV and radio discussion of the issues and candidates. And the latest IPSOS poll was released, showing Sarkozy and Hollande tied at 29 in round 1 and Hollande winning by a KO in round 2, 55-45. Slow and steady wins the race?

Meanwhile, Mediapart worries about "the Zapatero trap," which is real enough. It seems that no less an authority  on the EU than Jacques Delors is convinced that socialist government in any one country cannot succeed unless it creates "a social-democratic dynamic" across the Union. The Merkozy insistence on austerity will spell the end of the euro, the EU, and 60 years of institution building unless it can be effectively countered by continental restructuring in favor of growth, which depends not only on a Socialist victory in France but also on Hollande's emergence as a European leader of stature and inspirational qualities--in other words, a bit like Jacques Delors.

Was this speech the father's benediction to the son? If so, it was filled with rather ominous forebodings:
Jacques Delors s'exprimait sur la crise et traçait des pistes pour sortir la social-démocratie de sa torpeur. Le pacte budgétaire de Nicolas Sarkozy et Angela Merkel ? «Une usine à gaz.» Le «directoire Merkozy», qui domine le Conseil européen depuis deux ans ? «Si l'on continue comme cela, on tue l'Europe.» L'avenir de l'Union ? «L'Europe a le choix entre la survie et le déclin. C'est aussi simple que cela. (...) Il faut donc réfléchir à un nouveau modèle de développement.»
A "new model of development" thus far seems somewhat beyond the grasp of a candidate whose most recent blueprint for the future included such visionary items as increasing the back-to-school allowance for schoolchildren. But perhaps he will rise to the challenge.