Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Favorite

Nicolas Sarkozy's royal blunder--announcing a cabinet reshuffle for October, months in advance, and then letting the deadline pass--has the rumor mills spinning full tilt. It would take a Saint-Simon to do justice to the obsequious fawning and imperious signaling that have marked these past few months. Thierry Desjardins captures the atmosphere:

Aujourd’hui, Nicolas Sarkozy est à Troyes. Du coup, puisque le souverain daigne ainsi honorer de sa visite le fief de François Baroin, la Cour et les arrière-cours nous expliquent le plus sérieusement du monde qu’il pourrait bien avoir envie de faire « le grand saut générationnel » en nommant à Matignon cet éphèbe (de 45 ans tout de même) aux allures d’Harry Potter. Pourquoi pas ?

Baroin a une « belle gueule », il s’en est plutôt bien sorti pendant les dernières turbulences, il partage ses nuits avec une actrice populaire, il est le fils d’un ancien grand patron de la franc-maçonnerie, il est étiqueté comme « chiraquien », il a tout pour plaire.

Oui, mais Sarkozy est accompagné à Troyes par Jean-Louis Borloo et faire ainsi partie de la suite du monarque est un privilège aux lourdes significations. Il faut donc faire attention. Le favori d’hier n’est peut-être pas encore déchu même si, par moments, on a eu l’impression que le président était moins attentif aux cabrioles respectueuses de celui qu’on appelle, paraît-il, au château, « le fou du roi ».

Indeed, this account corresponds to various rumors I have picked up here and there. Fillon more and more overtly wants to stay. More and more overtly, Borloo is arousing opposition that Sarkozy can no longer ignore. Hence it is not surprising to hear that the monarch's eyes have turned to consider other possible favorites. The decision will no doubt have important consequences for the future of the UMP. As for the future of France, doubt is permitted. Sarkozy's personal style of government leaves little room for partnership. Still, a prime minister less discreet than Fillon has been until recently could conceivably create a space for himself alongside a seriously weakened president. But I'm not placing any bets.

Bozio on Retirement Reform

An excellent summary of the retirement reform and its distributive consequences by the always superb Antoine Bozio can be found here.

Slow Growth

The IMF has lowered its growth estimate for the global economy from 4.8 to under 4%, with a marked "asymmetry" between developed and emerging economies. The former will grow even more slowly than previously estimated, if at all. Chief economist Olivier Blanchard approves of the Fed's quantitative easing, announced yesterday, but notes that it has never been tried before on this scale. Implication: some unforeseen consequences are likely. As for foreseen consequences, French finance minister Christine Lagarde notes that the euro will bear the brunt of the Fed's move: as long interest rates come down in the US, the euro will appreciate still further against the dollar (as it did yesterday). Will we see a return to the $1.60 level of the past? If so, European exports to the US will be reduced, further slowing the European recovery, which European austerity measures have already hobbled. For an interesting discussion of various possible scenarios, particularly involving currency impacts, see here.

Talk Today at Harvard

I'll be speaking today about French Politics at the Harvard Center for European Studies, 27 Kirkland St., at 4:15. Joining me will be Jim Cronin to speak about British politics and Charlie Maier on Germany. Come if you're in the vicinity.