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.

Hollande Wins!

With 56%:

François Hollande remporte la primaire socialiste

Le député de Corrèze remporte le second tour de la primaire : il obtient 56 % des voix face à Martine Aubry, sur la base de 1,6 million de bulletins dépouillés, selon les résultats partiels communiqués par le Parti socialiste. Le total des votants est estimé à 2,7 millions de votants.


Élie Cohen recounts the history of Dexia, how it got into trouble, and how the European stress tests conducted as recently as July 2011 failed to reveal the bank's fragility. Which hardly builds confidence in repeated assurances that other banks are "solid" because they passed the stress tests.

Dexia, classée entreprise aux fonds propres les plus solides (Tier 1, meilleur que ceux du Crédit Agricole, de BNPP et de SocGen), a disparu quelques semaines après que ce constat ait été établi par le régulateur bancaire européen. L’aveuglement du régulateur jusqu’au terme ultime de la crise de Dexia laisse sans voix.

High Turnout

At midday, turnout in round 2 of the Socialist primary was higher than in round 1. What does this portend? Who knows? It could mean than anti-Hollande voters have been roused from their slumbers, or it could mean that the "people of the left" want this second round to bestow a ringing endorsement on their standard bearer. Rather than speculate, I'll wait a few more hours for the final tally.

Sarko's Silence

Jean Quatremer takes note of François Bayrou's critique of Nicolas Sarkozy's silence regarding the euro crisis. Indeed, there has been a marked change in Sarkozy's style since the beginning of his presidency. He used to take to the airwaves on the slightest pretext: un fait divers, a grand project to be announced and then forgotten, an outing with his girl to Disneyland. But lately he's been an absent presence. Bayrou thinks he needs to become a pedagogue, to explain what's being done about the euro crisis to citizens suffering from the EU's democratic deficit.

The euro crisis is not easy to explain, however, to the average citizen: I know, I've tried. And given the tense relations between France and Germany on the question, the president is probably well-advised to avoid simplifications that would either irritate the Germans or alarm the markets or both. When a deal is finally in place, there will be time for explanations. For the impatient, there is no shortage of discussion in the financial press, economics blogs, etc.

California Declares War on France

Foie gras will be outlawed in California eight months from now.