Sunday, October 16, 2011

Où allons-nous?

So, we have arrived at the end of the Socialist primary process. Where are we? More or less where we started: DSK was the favorite, and the winner is Hollande, the candidate whose position in the spectrum was closest to DSK's, even if he did not win the endorsement of the man who would have beaten him had he not beaten himself. The candidate has been at the center of Socialist politics for decades, and yet he has never held a ministerial position and is virtually unknown internationally. These handicaps--lack of governmental experience and lack of foreign- and global economic-policymaking experience--will be his biggest handicaps.

Hollande's nomination reduces the potential for a bulge in the center of the spectrum. There will, I expect, be no repeat of 2007, when Bayrou captured 16% of the vote in the first round owing to resistance to Royal. Hollande should be acceptable to many centrists--enough to diminish the risk of a 2002-style first-round elimination. That risk must now be faced by Sarkozy, who may be abandoned not only by centrists but also by the far right of his party, which may not resist the siren call of Marine Le Pen--la Pen, I'm tempted to call her.

What will the far left do? Indulge itself in round 1 by voting for Mélenchon, then fall into line in round 2. What else can it do? So Hollande needn't veer left to secure his flank in the first round, possibly alienating center and center-right voters whose votes he will need in round 2. He will run a straightforward social liberal campaign, capitalizing on Sarkozy's failure to deliver on basic promises and on his general unpopularity. It will be an unexciting run but fundamentally sound: since beginning this blog, I have argued that the next presidential election would be won in the center, and I still believe that. Of course a center-left politics may prove no more successful than the center-right politics of Sarkozy in dealing with the intractable problems of unemployment, debt, failure to integrate visible minorities, and failure to control the rising costs of maintaining the welfare state. But that is another matter. First Hollande has to get elected.

What would a Hollande government look like? In the last debate, he was asked if he would choose Aubry as prime minister, and he sidestepped the question (as did she). My guess is no. Although this campaign was exceedingly mild by American standards, there were a few low blows from the Aubry camp in the final days. I doubt that these will be decisive. More important is Aubry's generally disdainful attitude toward Hollande's management of the party when he was first secretary. He no doubt returns the favor, though he has been quiet about it. I suspect he will want a new face. The old éléphants are usés. Fabius is perfidious. Ségolène Royal is not a consensus-builder. Montebourg and Valls and Hamon suffer from a variety of drawbacks. Peillon lacks luster. Which brings us to Moscovici, who is managing Hollande's campaign. A DSK loyalist, he made the switch to Hollande at the right moment and has been steadfast since. I think he is the logical choice, though he might prefer Foreign Affairs. Would Hollande consider DSK for finance? I think not. He'll still be too hot next May. Perhaps Didier Migaud, the head of the budgetary oversight committee (although he supported Aubry, I believe). Montebourg for justice. And for Defense, perhaps an exercise in ouverture: Bayrou, why not?

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There's still an election to win. Hollande has been a surprisingly disciplined candidate, who worked hard at the job. He will no doubt continue to work through the election and may well have learned a thing or two about how to fend off Sarkozy's attacks.


Boz said...

"These handicaps--lack of governmental experience and lack of foreign- and global economic-policymaking experience--will be his biggest handicaps."

Indeed, that's exactly what the UMP talking head on France24 was just emphasizing. It would be interesting to learn more about what Hollande has in mind for his foreign policy, but as far as I've found (link below), there's little out there thus far. Any ideas?

Vertigo said...

I have a question... voters had to pay one euro in order to vote... what will that money be used for?

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Vertigo, the money will cover the cost of running the primary.

Boz, I expect that Hollande will emphasize early withdrawal from Afghanistan, greater independence from the US, more emphasis on common European defense as opposed to NATO,and some degree of international recognition of the Palestinian authority. He will be vague on Turkish membership in the EU, postponing it to the distant future. He will try to sound tough on the EU but won't actually propose much change in policy.

bernard said...

when was a national election last won on foreign policy anywhere?

Kirk said...

Two thoughts:

First, you suggest that Hollande is going to capture the Bayrou vote. I'm not so sure. He may be the more centrist of socialist candidates, but when it comes to the election, he still the Left. And he has to support the socialist platform; while he can temper it a bit, they way they choose the platform gives him little latitude.

Second, isn't it likely that he will name Aubry as prime minister? In some ways, the second round of the primay serves little purpose, as I'm sure Aubry would have picked him as PM. So center, left, there's no big difference when you give the two of them the top spots.

(Granted, he may choose a different PM. Maybe we could speculate on other choices. Fabius would make sense, having been there before. What about Jack Lang?)

gregory brown said...

Hmm, I posted something last night but it didn't show up. Anyway I said I wrote that IIRC Royal has farther ahead of Sarko at this point in 07 than Hollande is so that I think its too early to be distributing cabinet posts. Moreover, I asked, and ask, and look forward to reading (here first, no doubt!) of how the race is shaping in the first round -- Hollande, Sarokozy, La Pen [sic], Bayrou (?),Melenchon, Joly, Baylet, perhaps Villepin and certainly several others.

My sense is that if no one is positioned to capture more than 30% of the first round vote by February when the formal campaign starts, its pretty wide open for the second round. I suspect that will be the case.

FrédéricLN said...

Agree with Kirk.

Moreover, Hollande's call to Bayrou supporters last night was almost insulting ("d’autres qui ne savent pas s’ils sont de gauche, qui savent qu’ils ne sont plus de droite, ce qui est déjà pas mal, et qu’il faudra bien accueillir le moment venu, s’ils le décident").

It's not about transforming ourselves into "chamallows". It's not about betting for the left to free for us a folding seat. It's not about taking a mask and pretend we would share the responsibility of the left (or the right) for the last 30 years of administrations.

Sure there have been good things done, as well as many irresponsible decisions.

It's about putting our country back in running order, avoid bankruptcy, make our school work again, and miscellaneous small other things that you cannot achieve from any folding seat. That you cannot achieve if you are bound to the previous leaders of the same national business.


Anonymous said...

FrédéricLNL "It's about putting our country back in running order, avoid bankruptcy, make our school work again..."
Exactly and it won't be Hollande who does it!