Sunday, April 9, 2017

Macron et les 100 Jours

One thing that has worried me about the Macron candidacy is that I have little sense of how he will govern once elected. Until now he has occupied only subaltern positions in government. What would he do as chief executive.

Two weeks ago, a visitor to Harvard who claimed to know him well said he would press immediately for labor-market reform and school reform. Now, it seemed to me that these are two hot-button issues, likely to bring masses of people into the streets, as indeed labor-market reform did under Hollande. So I asked, Wouldn't this risk a repeat of 1995, when the Chirac-Juppé proposal to reform the pension system, which enjoyed nearly universal elite support, brought masses into the street and paralyzed the country for a month, leading to eventual retreat and dooming the Chirac presidency? The answer was that Macron believed in the "theory of the 100 days," that what doesn't get done in that initial period, when the incoming president's mandate is fresh and strong, doesn't get done at all.

But in today's JDD, Macron says the opposite. Not only does he not believe in the "100-day theory," he explicitly says that the theory led to the failure of previous presidencies. Of course, he (and I) may be wrong, or it may be that circumstances are different now and that a quick strike would succeed while a more gradualist approach will fail. But I was reassured that, whatever the truth of the matter, Macron had pondered the problem and will proceed deliberately rather than impulsively.


Anonymous said...

None of this, as far as I can see, changes the fact that Macron's program is not substantially different from the Valls-Hollande agenda that brought Hollande's popularity into the single digits. That Macron managed to evade any political taint from that mess means something. At best it means that his moderately liberal reforms have the support of a potential majority in France that Hollande, who had run on a completely different program and who turned out to be a clumsy and uncharismatic president, was unable to mobilize. The parliamentary elections will also be totally unpredictable, and if Macron plays his cards right and is lucky he will gain a majority and a lot of political leeway.

Yet firstly, there is every chance that the elections will not go Macron's way and that he will get either no majority at all or a coalition of parities so different from one another that they cannot work together effectively. Secondly, as Art points out, Macron's proposed reforms will be as vulnerable to street protests as Hollande's or Juppé's were. Finally, even if Macron gets his reforms through, there is little reason to assume that they will be popular in themselves or that they will get France out of the economic quagmire in which it has been stuck for so many years.

Of course the choice seems to be between Macron and the abyss, so let's hope that I'm underestimating both his chances in Parliament and how effective he can be in office.

Ronald Tiersky said...

On the "100 days" idea: Fillon was in New York several months ago recruiting French expat support/money and no doubt seeing a few political types in nyc and d.c. After dodging some questions on how he would proceed if he won, he came clean. He said he would put up three referenda (three changes to 'unblock French dynamism,' etc.) in the initial period because that's when big gambles can be won. Notice that he was talking about referenda not parliament, although he would obviously have to go to parliament if he won the referenda. I suppose his idea was that if he won he would end up with some kind of center-right or center-right/center majority that would find it difficult to reject the referenda results and his presidency would then be launched in great success. Someone asked him what he would do if he won the presidency and then lost the referenda (or maybe two of them). Would he do 'what de Gaulle would have done', except that Fillon would be resigning from office after only a few months. Fillon hemmed and hawed and vaguely said it would be difficult for him to govern if his big strategy were rejected. But we know that Fillon also said he would quit the race if he were put under formal investigation. He wasn't extremely impressive overall.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that it's what Macron wants to do, but can't afford to say so?

FrédéricLN said...

@Anonymous "Macron's program is not substantially different from the Valls-Hollande agenda that brought Hollande's popularity into the single digits." That may be the reason why he would not overpromise deliveries in the first 100 days: *what* would he deliver after all?