Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hollande Relaunches

François Hollande kicked off phase two of his campaign with a vast meeting at Le Bourget. He struck at several of the Right's pet campaign themes, distinguishing, for instance, between l'assistanat and la solidarité and pledging to allow immigrants to vote in local elections. At the same time, he promised to inscribe the 1905 separation law in the Constitution. I'm not sure what this move is supposed to accomplish legally that the law itself doesn't already accomplish, but it gives Hollande some défense de la laïcité cred against Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Does it also dilute the outreach to immigrants in the local right to vote measure? No doubt. But all of this is symbolic posturing at best, and voters will read the symbols as they please, based I suspect on a more general evaluation of the candidate's instincts on these gut issues.

More concrete is the promise to end le cumul des mandats for deputies, which will have a long-run effect on the structure of parties and the relation of local to central government. He will also cut the salaries of the president and ministers by 30%--more eyewash. He says that his "real enemy is the world of finance" and promises to separate investment and credit activities and establish an EU-level public ratings agency and a public investment bank--modest gestures that don't really get to the heart of financial regulation.

On retirement, he emphasizes the 60-yr legal retirement age, but only for those "who began work early"--in sum, not very different from the Sarkozy-Fillon measure, though rhetorically shrouded in "defense of the working-man" verbiage. Nevertheless, state finances will be returned to "equilibrium" by the end of his five-year term--he does not specify how.

There are to be controls on "excessive" rents--a promise with a lot of built-in wiggle room.

The policy of not replacing 1 in 2 retiring civil servants will be suspended.

On crime, "priority security zones" will be created where "delinquency" is high, but he did not say how those zones would be policed.

There was this personal jab at Sarkozy: "Je revendique une simplicité qui n'est pas une retenue mais la marque de l'authentique autorité--mon secret, que j'ai gardé depuis longtemps : j'aime les gens quand d'autres sont fascinés par l'argent." This was coupled with language directed against the "personalization" of the presidency. I suppose that, given widespread dislike of the "bling-bling omnipresident," these tropes were inevitable, but I find them rather cheap.

There will be "a new treaty with Germany" to replace the de Gaulle-Adenauer treaty. It would be nice to know what the candidate thinks can be accomplished in this area.

Those were the high points. I didn't hear the speech, so I can't say how effectively it was delivered, but on paper, to my eye, it seems rather lackluster and predictable.