France elects Dracula

France voted on Sunday and elected Nicolas Sarkozy as their new President. The French media described the vote as a showdown between Dracula (Sarkozy) and Mary Poppins (Ségolène Royal). The Globe and Mail explains:

… a joke on not only the physical appearances of the candidates, but also a reasonable encapsulation of the political approaches they promised. To get France back on its feet, Mr. Sarkozy has repeatedly indicated, will require a sharp bite to the throat.

It’s clear that France’s economy is underperforming in some significant respects. French voters opted for significant change. Paul Wells has followed the election with interest:

Sarkozy made it pretty clear that he intends a direct confrontation with the very forces that have foiled every serious attempt at labour-market reform in his country, and that at the other end of those speed bumps is more work for everyone. …

Sometimes societies do elect change. For me the question all year for France has been whether it’s 1993 yet – whether a country is ready for reform, even to the extent of imposing it on a government that isn’t sure whether it’s time yet (as Canada’s Liberals certainly weren’t in 1993).

In other words, France is overdue to introduce some austerity measures. The French electorate has been unwilling to do so, until now. And they still have a chance to reverse course, when they choose a Prime Minister next month. Wells comments,

The prime minister … has more control over the domestic economy than the president does, and it would not be the first time if the French decide to hand their conservative president a socialist prime minister.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. juggling mother
    May 08, 2007 @ 16:10:10

    I’m sure that in decades to come the French people will look back at what happens over the next few years and agree that (some of) it needed to be done (although they may not agree with how the reforms are made).

    But I feel very sorry for the people who are going to have to live through it. And slightly scared.

    We did it under Thatcher in the 80’s – when she broke the unions, criminalised most employment practises and rights, sold off every bit of state owned company, took us to war, phased out the NHS, bankrupted the country and it’s people, sent inflation to 15%, had the highest unemployment rates since the depression, and tried to remove universal sufferage! Some of what was done needed doing. But not how it was done, and not all of it! Fortunately much of it has been repaired in the last 10 years. But much hasn’t.

    The French are on a pretty rough edge at the moment anyway – if Sarkozy makes enough people desperatae enough, I can see a great deal of violence being a likely outcome:-( I’m an optomist at heart, so i hope it won’t go that way – but I worry thta it will.

    Reply

  2. 49erDweet
    May 10, 2007 @ 19:18:36

    Extremely interesting election results, eh? Can there be change afoot in France or is this just a speed bump in a busy roundabout? This might be fun to watch, unless jm is spot on about the potential for violence. Wouldn’t want that, no matter my long-standing low opinion of the quality of their culture.

    Cheers

    Reply

  3. Stephen
    May 11, 2007 @ 14:32:41

    • Juggling Mother:

    Thatcher tried to end universal suffrage?! I have at least a vague knowledge of most of the reforms you list, but not that one!

    If Sarkozy is serious enough to follow through on his platform, despite the inevitable opposition, there’s going to be some serious pain for some elements of French society. The sad thing is, the ones who live closest to disaster tend to get pushed over the edge during such times of social recalibration.

    Your fears of violence are well founded, I would say, given the protacted period of nightly car burnings we witnessed in France so recently. Sarkozy won’t respond to provocations with a velvet glove, as his predecessors in office did.

    • 49er:

    Interesting indeed. I don’t often comment on international politics unless it involves Britain or the USA. But France is still a Western power, and Sarkozy’s election may signal a significant (and necessary) recalibration.

    The election also interests me because of the parallel French society in Canada. Quebec has been similarly reluctant to bow to real-world economics, and they (unreasonably) blame their financial difficulties on the rest of Canada! A nod to reality in France can only have a beneficial impact on Quebec and, by extension, on Canada.

    Reply

  4. juggling mother
    May 11, 2007 @ 15:16:21

    Thatcher’s final insanity – and the one that was the final straw for the British public, was the imposition of the poll tax. This is a tax levied to register to vote. Anyone who was of no fixed abode, travelling, most students, many tenents and those not keen on registering their details on the governemnet computer became ineligable to vote overnight. it was, basically, an attempt to return to the days where only the landowners could vote.

    The last time a poll tax was attempted in the UK, by John of Gaunt in 1381, it caused the peasants revolt and when Thatcher tried it again in 1990 the same basic thing happened – Millions of people turned out on demonstrations, there was rioting in the street, the courts & prisons were completely filled with non-payers and local councils were suing central government for the whole mess!

    It was such a fun time;-)

    I think it’s called a head tax in Canada.

    Estimates at the time said that some 20% people fell of the voting register, and a further 30% refused to pay when billed so became inelligable to vote. Had that stayed in place, it would have meant only 50% of th adult population would hve been able to vote in the next general election – not universal sufferage imo.

    Reply

  5. Stephen
    May 11, 2007 @ 18:11:05

    Introducing that policy took some nerve, even for Thatcher!

    The Canadian head tax was different: a fee charged to Chinese immigrants, with the goal of limiting their numbers and making it harder for them to settle here permanently (since they couldn’t afford to pay for family members to immigrate).

    To my knowledge, Canada has never charged people to register to vote. Of course, suffrage hasn’t always been universal: status Indians were not permitted to vote until 1960!

    Reply

  6. juggling mother
    May 12, 2007 @ 05:29:01

    I’m reasonably certain no other country has tried it in that way, since the dabacle in England in 1381:-)

    I have absolutely no concept of how either she, or assuming she was a completely power crazed maniac by that time, her cabinet, thought it had a hope of being an accepted policy!

    In a way, it is good to know that the Brits finally were able to stand up for themselves and just say no:-) Although I wonder how much of that as reliant on the fact that we had, at that time, the highest unemployemnet rate since the depression, and the lowest welfare benefits since it’s inception. When that many people have so little to lose, civil unrest seems likely. Now we have full employment, and a prety good welfare system in most cases, I doubt you’d find 30% of the population deliberately flouting the law & risking prison!

    France is not in that position at the moment, but If Sarkoxy can manage full employment, he will probably just have demonstrations – not riots/revolutions.

    Reply

  7. juggling mother
    May 12, 2007 @ 05:34:14

    although, thinking about it…..

    The peasants revolted in 1381 because they were in such a GOOD position. Over the previous 100 years, some 50% of the population had died of the plague, and peasants were a saught after commodity, with nobels gazumping each other to get the skilled workers. Standard historical academia states that they revolted because they knew they would still have at least as much afterwards, and there was plenty to gain, not because they had nothing to lose.

    hmmmmm, maybe full employment won’t help Sarkozy;-)

    Reply

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