Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Hollande: time to dissolve parliament and call national elections?
This spectacular defeat forced Hollande to be seen to react, and that's why he let PM Jean-Marc Ayrault go and installed Manuel Valls in Matignon to replace him. But the change has not been anything like effective so far.On the contrary, things have gone from bad to worse.
The day Valls was named a group of 100 socialist dissidents let him and Hollande know that they might not give the new government the parliamentary vote of confidence that would officially allow it to take office and begin work. They backed down in the end but the tone was set - the dissidents were here to stay.
What are the dissidents angry about? They are angry at Hollande's Social-Democratic conversion, which they say goes against everything that socialism represents. They feel that nothing is being done to make life easier for ordinary citizens and that the poor are being milked dry to help the rich. In other words, their objections are of an ideological nature.
Meanwhile, the reality on the ground remains dire. France failed recently to persuade the EU to give it more time to get its finances in order. This latest demand was the third in so many years and the EU's curt refusal showed that it has finally decided to force France to engage the structural and economic reforms that it has been trying to put off or has not been able to implement.
Further bad news followed in the form of Hollande being obliged to fire a prominent Elysée advisor because he was suspected of a conflict of interest in his business dealings. The opposition poured oil on the flames and Hollande's popularity ratings began to fall even further.
The extent of his unpopularity became painfully clear to him today when he was roundly bood by socialists who had come to hear him speak at a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of legendary founding socialist Jean Jaurés, a man of deep socialist convictions who is still revered within the party today. Accusing him of betraying socialism and Jaurés' legacy, the protestors also demanded to know why he had not held his election promises to be 'the enemy of finance'.
Then, just this afternoon, the dissidents decided this afternoon to reject planned spending cuts by the government and either vote against them in parliament or abstain. These cuts are designed to contribute to the €50 billion the government is trying to raise to honour François Hollande's New Year promise to cut the business sector some tax slack to enable companies to keep prices down and hire more staff. That plan is the 'Pact of Responsibility', and Hollande said at the time that it was "urgently needed". Four months on however, almost no progress has been made on it and this is largely due to the dissidents' stalling tactics.
In other words, Hollande is facing a serious backbench revolt that is holding up reforms and legislation and he and his government have been unable to move forward on changes at a time when they are of the utmost importance.
How long can this situation be allowed to continue? A massively unpopular president and government, open revolt in his party, a paralysed parliament, the country is to all intents and purposes at a standstill.
François Hollande is very much aware of his situation and may well be thinking that if he cannot be permitted to implement his own policies that it's time to begin to consider dissolving parliament and asking the people to decide in legislative elections. If this were to happen the result would almost certainly be a victory for the opposition UMP and a 'government of cohabitation' between Hollande and his enemies, who may, ironically, be more open to his more liberal plans. As to the dissidents, many of them would be out of a job.
What if the dissidents threw out his cuts when they are voted upon? What if he threatened dissolution? Would the threat force the dissidents to climb down? We don't know yet, but we do know that something must be done, and soon, to ensure that France has a functioning government at the very moment it most desperately needs one.