|A socialist arguing with Thatcher|
If François Hollande wins he will have given them hope and inspiration for their own campaigns, but if he loses, particularly against an extremely unpopular president and after enjoying a substantial lead since the start, the European left could be condemned to years spent out in the cold.
Britain, Spain and Portugal are among a list of socialist-run countries who were paradoxically thrown out of office at least partially because of the economic crisis which began with the sub-prime scandal, all of which shows that there is no such thing as ‘fair’ in politics.
But things are as they are, and socialist parties are today in the unenviable position of having to stand by ineffectually as conservative governments all over Europe vote draconian belt-tightening measures into law, thus condemning their citizens to several years of relative hardship.
Now however, the electoral calendar dictates that Nicolas Sarkozy has to place his faith and future in the ballot box. It’s the last thing he would have wanted of course, given that even before the campaign began it was being widely accepted on all sides that his immense unpopularity would give Hollande a substantial advantage.
And so it has proved, with Hollande still maintaining a sizeable second-round lead, albeit reduced from its initial size, of five to six points, depending on which poll you read. This is good news for him of course, and he must be hoping that anti-Sarkozy voting intentions will hold up, even if they aren’t necessarily indicative of a positive vote for his own policies.
This is why other European socialist parties who are themselves awaiting elections at one time or another are watching this contest anxiously. They, like Hollande, are being lambasted by conservative governments and presidents who allege that they simply would not be able to implement spending policies based on taxing the rich and spending the proceeds, as this would not in itself do much to reduce deficits. But if they win power they will be in a position to change the many drastic debt-reducing measures introduced by Europe and the CEB. And if Hollande is elected they will take heart from the assumption that the much dreamed of voter backlash against conservative leaders and policies may have begun and will help them too.
However, although Hollande could hardly have wished for better circumstances in which to launch an election campaign it is also true that if he fails to win he will be the second French socialist candidate in five years to lose an apparently unloseable election.
And if Sarkozy is re-elected it will have become clear that although he is immensely unpopular, voters will have decided that Hollande’s alternative policies on the economy were not credible despite their apparent attractions.
This nightmare scenario is everything that other socialist parties are currently dreading. After all, if Hollande cannot win this election, what possible hope could they - and European socialism itself - have for the future?