Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Out of Ammunition?

Françoise Fressoz, Le Monde's political correspondent, blogs that the president is "out of ammunition." Her comment follows Hollande's televised speech last night on the 8 PM news. I saw the speech. It wasn't just that he was out of ammunition--that is, had nothing concrete to propose to his anxious countrymen. It was that he seemed like an automaton, undoubtedly because he had been overcoached and had practiced too long in front of a mirror making gestures meant to be "forceful" but which in the event only emphasized his powerlessness. In the end, his message to the French was simply, "Je vous ai compris [slices the air aggressively with his left hand]... mais que voulez-vous que je fasse, on continue droit dans le mur [places both palms flat on the table in a gesture meant to convey well-meaning sincerity]."

Fressoz ends her blog with a typical piece of exaggerated French pessimism:
Deux ans après son élection, la France est devenue la grande malade de l’Europe. C'est pourquoi elle a divorcé d'avec ce président trop placide qui continue de lui promettre que «la réussite de tous» est au «bout du chemin »
No, France is not the sick man of Europe. Hungary is prey to neofascists and democracy is in danger there. Greece is far worse off economically. Unemployment is higher in Spain. But the French political class has not distinguished itself with imaginative responses to the crisis. The danger is compounded this morning by the apparent and astounding collapse of the UMP, the main opposition party, which has just ousted its leader Jean-François Copé after revelations of apparent campaign fraud on a massive scale. The scandal also threatens to engulf the former president and future UMP hope, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Hence there is a gaping void at the center of the political system. This void was the real reason for Sunday's vote: the French are gasping for air, not endorsing an exit from Europe or a veer to the far right. Sooner or later a political leader other than Marine Le Pen will recognize that fact and capitalize on it. I hope it's sooner.

In case you missed the (awful) speech:


Anonymous said...

To me France's situation appears similar to that of Italy. Our southern neighbors are worse off economically, but politically it's the same mess.

Senior politicians are vying to become the official candidates of their respective parties, thinking that once they become the official candidate for their side citizens will have no choice but vote from them. Abstention will be high, more voters will turn toward populist parties, but the majority will still be reasonable enough to sick with mainstream candidates.

So the pathetic shows goes on, until an unexpected new face enters the game. Italy had an upset with Matteo Renzi, I have no idea who it could be in France. If Coluche were still around, he would do a triumph in the 2017 election...

Anonymous said...

Sad. Just sad.

brent said...

True, in economic terms France isn't nearly as 'sick' as Greece or some others, but in political terms? Is any European nation sicker than France? (Yes, Hungary maybe, but what a low bar!) With both major parties inhabited by self-interested, ineffectual cumulards, the only vigor seems to show itself in the anachronisms of the far right. Meanwhile interesting alternatives are raised by Tsipras. by Keller, by the post-capitalist left ... but a knowing punditocracy rolls its eyes at such follies, and reports nothing of substance. And on it goes.