Friday, August 2, 2013

Fermeture annuelle ou permanente?

The word from France is that François Hollande, le président normal, discouraged his ministers from taking summer vacations (though what is more normal in France than the great summer exodus?), If they did leave Paris, the word went out, they were to remain nearby and available for a quick return, and une permanence was to be left minding the store at the ministry. Et pourtant ... there hasn't been much news out of the government for quite a while now. Perhaps everyone is hunkered down in anticipation of what may well be une rentrée chaude: with new pension and labor-market reforms on tap for the fall, the reaction could well be significant. This isn't what a lot of people who voted for the Left signed on for. But for the moment, it's all academic: we don't really know what Hollande has in mind for the fall.

And that, I submit, is the problem with the Hollande presidency. He is neither a visionary nor a pedagogue but an attentiste. The Germans go to the polls in September. Maybe something will turn up. The US economy and perhaps even the British economy are a little less sluggish than last year: maybe that will be good for France. In the meantime, keep one's own counsel and don't make any abrupt moves.

This seems to be Hollande's philosophy of governance, and the French have tired of it even more rapidly than they tired of the Sarkoshow. I would call it a sad spectacle, except that it's been anything but a spectacle--by design, as if keeping a low profile after Sarkozy's permanently high profile would be enough to ensure success.