Monday, May 6, 2013

The Party Leader Prefigured the President

The thought has occurred to many: François Hollande as president is in many ways similar to François Hollande as party leader. His authority is doubted, his ability to enunciate a clear line through a thicket of incompatible positions is questioned, his dexterity is admired yet his rivals believe that, when the moment comes, they can easily sweep him aside, and while he presides over a constantly bickering yet never quite disintegrating coalition, the party drifts and never develops a distinctive response to Sarkozy's neoliberalism. Médiapart has now elaborated this analysis in a new article, which contains this paragraphe assassin:
À la tête du parti, Hollande est apprécié par les militants, mais surtout pour ses blagues, rarement pour des discours marquants. Il est en revanche constamment contesté, voire méprisé, par le reste des cadres et hiérarques du parti. Frontalement par l’aile gauche, puis par les fabiusiens. Plus secrètement par les strauss-kahniens. Parmi les responsables socialistes, son autorité ne lui aura jamais été reconnue. Mais il aura profité de son art de la synthèse (qu’il magnifiera lors du congrès du Mans, en 2005, rassemblant de façon factice un parti fracturé par le référendum européen).
The article is worth reading in full. It crystallizes the increasingly insistent murmurs on the left that the Hollande presidency is going to end in disaster. Of course, it's wise to keep in mind that no situation is ever hopeless, especially in politics, where the weather changes daily. But insofar as leadership style is deeply embedded in the leader's character, it seems unlikely that Hollande is going to find the wherewithal to rescue himself.

Characteristically, he is waiting for events to turn his way. No doubt his greatest hope is that the German elections will break the European logjam, although it is not easy to see how that will happen, even if Mrs. Merkel is forced into a grand coalition with the SDP. The problem is that the German Social Democrats do not see eye-to-eye with their French counterparts. They are constrained by their electoral base, which remains as fiercely opposed to useful measures such as mutualization of the European debt and effective banking regulation as their conservative opponents.

Still, the Germans may feel, after the immediate threat of rejection at the polls is removed, that the European situation requires them to make further accommodation, however unpopular, as the least bad among the alternatives. If that is Hollande's hope and calculation, it is unlikely to alter the image he has projected as a weak leader, even if he turns out to be correct. And the best to be hoped for if everything goes just right is a weak recovery from a prolonged period of low-level depression (psychological as well as economic), which is unlikely to propel the Socialists toward victory in 2017.


DavidinParis said...

Just a thought, but I wonder if one obstacle to integrate Europe better is to time elections so they more closely coincide. If each country choses their leaders more or less at the same time (as do the 50 US states, albeit with midterm elections as well), in forces the countries to consider the situation in the context of the 'united states of europe'. Again, just a thought, but one perhaps worth developing??

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