Vive la France – or not?
The first round of the French Presidential election is finally over. International press and investors are relieved and cheering, basing their enthusiasm on the following points:
- The worst case, a run-off between the extreme right (Le Pen) and the extreme left (Melenchon) has not materialized
- Everybody is counting on a home-run for Macron to beat Le Pen in the run-off in two weeks
- And, omg, the researchers have been right in their forecasts this time (btw the first time in a major election since 2015)
In reality, the situation is far worse, than it looks at first glance. This election will be a further burden on France, which has already been punished by Hollande’s Presidency for the last five years, and it is doubtful whether the French population is yet ready for any serious improvement. Here is why:
- France for the first time since WWII has nearly half of their voters who are blinded by either nationalist or communist ideas, and are openly against membership in the European Union. They are against all long needed reforms of the French economic system, in which today the bloated civil service is acting as an iron wall against any performance oriented reforms, in which the focus would have to be more on give and do than on take. This is a bad foreboding both for up-coming parliamentary elections and any reforms that would have to be explained to the population.
- Macron, in case that he will win the run-off, will be a President without the Parliament’s backing, and it would be a miracle if he could engineer with his new movement a solid majority in the upcoming Parliamentary elections. The Co-habitation between President and Parliament from different parties had already proven very bad for political progress in France in the past, and is very hard to imagine how major reforms in France (which always co-incide with the „Misérables“ inspired burning of tires and blocking of roads, that is unfortunately enshrined in the French genetic code) could be executed in this setting. He will be a President who can only rely on the public vote, but if nearly half of the population will be on the barricades ..?
- It is not yet clear, whether Macron will really win so clearly in the end. The voters from the extreme left might be tempted to vote for Le Pen and also some voters from the conservative party might not be amused to vote for a Mini-Hollande. And then …, there is still the chance of foreign meddling in the election, and the uncovering of a media hyped scandal. Francois Fillon has shown how fast a leading contender can burn to ashes.
France is in urgent need of a strong President, seconded by a strong Parliamentary majority, who can re-design the French societal contract to be able to cope with the challenges of the next decades. Illusions of an endless growth of the state have to be burned, and it will hurt. It will hurt the many people who believe that it is normal to start a pension at the age of 55, after having been exploited for decades by working 35 hours per week. The longer this illusion is kept, the more radical and revolutionary the answer will be one day in the not so far future.
The election result is a drastic outcry of the population, strengthening the extreme parties and weakening the established left and right, who have led France into the current disaster. As in other countries the middle class and the working people in the private sector have been sucked out by a bloated public sector and over-spending, state regulation, over-administered social systems which are in addition strained by too high un-employment, and a growing feeling that French politicians lack the courage for real reforms. The global role and importance of „la Grande Nation“ is diminishing fast and this is hurting the French ego. Someone has to tell the French, that greater wealth, higher employment and sound state finances, will only result from hard work, more flexibility, greater innovation, attraction of the best minds and entrepreneurs, rewarding and not punishing performance; and that it will not result from ever more taxes, more state employees, higher welfare benefits, more tricolore flags, less globalization, more deficits and state spending. Imitating Trump in a „France First“ movement will work even less with a home market the size of France and the top-down, Paris-centric corporate and industrial French culture.
We will see whether Mr. Macron is up to this task. It is definitely too early to cheer.