Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Hollande: time to dissolve parliament and call national elections?

Rumours that François Hollande may dissolve parliament and call elections began to circulate a week ago when he said in public that he would not stand for re-election if he and his government did not succeed in reducing unemployment. This was a significant statement because it is by no means certain that he will be able to lower unemployment given the economic outlook. Also, he is said by some advisors to be adopting a policy of secretive 'bunkerisation' at the Elysée and is becoming weary at the constant criticism he is receiving in the press. He was also shocked by the extent of voter dissatisfaction that saw the socialists trounced in recent national local 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.


  1. Not being there and not reading much about politics except through few words on blogs, I can't really see clearly what is going on but I have to say that I miss France for its beautiful regions and landscape, history… but this modern France with so many problems, I do not know and do not like. I ran into a woman who married a french man, yesterday. They are separated and did not divorce so the "husband" can be covered through her Motion Picture health insurance. He moved back to France only 2 or 3 years ago and cannot stand it. He is 63 years old and will stay in France until his sick 91 year old mother dies and caring for relatives also needing his attention but he will come back to the US when the dust settles. I am not sure what the future will hold for France, Europe or all western countries but have you read Thomas Picketty's book "capital"? He is an economist and his book gives you an insight of what has happened and why… For a book on economy, it is pretty easy to read.

    1. Hello Nadege, and yes, I have read it. Surprisingly enough it is often being mentioned in the French press and the reviews are good. I agree with him and this mess has been on the cards for over thirty years now. What amazes me is how long it took people to realise it, hence the fact that things are getting even worse. Oh well, it'll all come out in the wash of history.....

      And I fully understand why this gentleman can't wait to get out of France and back to the USA. You can't imagine how gloomy and depressing France seems to French people who live abroad and have to come back for some reason. I get the impression that most of them are pleased they moved abroad and pleased to get back out there when their business is done.

      On that subject, I was considering writing about the large increase in French graduates who are fleeing the country. I surely will sometime soon.

      Hope all is well over in your sunny place and have a great afternoon.

  2. I know you posted a new entry but somehow, I cannot access it.

    1. Hello Nadege, and how are things over there in the wild and wacky world of America?

      Concerning the absent entry, this may be the right moment to tell you that I started another blog recently and wanted to post an entry on it but posted it here instead, so I took it down from here and posted it there.

      It's a thematic blog and I got the idea for it by reading an article on The Guardian. You can learn more if you like by going to it and reading the 'Why this Blog?' column. There are only three entries on it up to now but there will be at least one more each week.

      Oh, and if you do go there can I ask you for an opinion on who the children in the graveyard may be in the entry I posted about a cemetary?

      Anyway, you can see it by going to my Blogger profile or by opening this URL.


      Fed up with the rain! :)