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The Importance of the French Election to Us

Don Rose 23 April 2012 One Comment

I will be winging my way to Paris this week as I have so many springtimes—though the Chicago spring has been remarkably warmer than my destination city. These days I go more as a “tourist” than a part-time resident, having sold my wonderful apartment in 2010 (and made out quite well since Paris real estate prices were not damaged during the big economic dip and continue to appreciate).

 

More importantly, I’ll be there for the exciting May 6 runoff election between President Nicolas Sarkozy, the unpopular, increasingly right-wing “centrist,” and Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate, who led the 10-candidate field in Sunday’s first round with 28.5 percent to the incumbent’s 27.09 percent. Recent polling had them tied at 27. Extreme right-winger Marine Le Pen came up with an unexpected 18.15 percent. Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon underperformed with 11.08 percent.

Polling suggests that Hollande will win the runoff comfortably—by 7 points or more, though Le Pen’s better numbers may help Sarkozy. Melenchon’s votes are needed by Hollande.

Barack Obama earlier endorsed Sarkozy, much to the chagrin of some American progressives because of the Frenchman’s rabid stance on immigration and other issues. I assume Obama did so because of the working relationship between the two men and, more importantly, because he dare not endorse anyone with a “socialist” label.

Here’s why this election is important to us all. If Hollande wins, it will break up the conservative coalition of Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron that has led Europe through the economic crisis and makes life-and-death economic decisions—most notably for the drastic austerity programs imposed on their countries and those in worse shape.

Hollande, a modern, somewhat centrified socialist, has a different idea: investment rather than austerity with higher taxes on the wealthy. His program is much like those proposed here by Nobel Laureates Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz among other progressive economists.

Also, there will be French parliamentary elections in the coming months and he may well come up with a like-minded legislature.

The implications are significant for France and the rest of Europe if he is able to get his programs through. Of further importance will be the working relationship with Merkel and Cameron.  We cannot predict at this point how much he will shake things up.

But in this world economy there may be significant impact on the markets and conceivably our own economy. Take it as a matter of trust that Wall Street does not want Hollande, nor do world bankers. Some threaten that the euro will nosedive and the European economy will slide further into recession. That will also affect us, right around election time.

Perhaps this is typical right-wing scare talk. Perhaps there is something to it. My thinking is that Hollande is going in the proper direction and will ultimately be good for France. But the bankers and brokers who run the show may decide to put everyone through the wringer.

Buckle your seat belts. It may be a bumpy ride.

**

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

One Comment »

  • Westie said:

    I’d not consider Sarkozy anything but a Leftist and would just as soon see him dumped and let the Socialist pull down the EUSSR.

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