2007 Sarkozy President and the French New Government May 19, 2007Posted by The Writers in Politics.
Any serious commentator of French politics should notice that Sarkozy presidency is operating a rather incredible change in the French political landscape. Although I am convinced that changes was needed from a long time (more than 30 years). And little serious reform in this direction has been done after George Pompidou’s work on industrial policies which partially regenerated France.
There is several important features to notice in Sarkozy presidency I want to review in this commentary. 2007 may well be an important date in the modern history of France. I don’t dissimulate that I expect to be the date where France catches up with its real positioning for its own people and for its place in the world as a great nation. There was, as this blog witness, an aggravation of issues in the French context, most middle-class visitors of France are not equipped to handle. It is not the aim of this comment to repeat the main line of the issues (but for an overview read Michel Gurfinkiel ‘Can France Be Saved’? in Commentary Magazine, May 2007).
One has nothing less to do than greeting Nicolas Sarkozy for having tackled with such intelligence and political flair all the themes that needed to be addressed in the campaign. In doing so, he has systematically demonstrated the inadequacy of the French socialists in today’s world but also put the French right wing movement on a radically different footing. I guess the socialists themselves have not understood the implication of what is going on as one sees the head of the socialist party holding on petty attacks. The other main point is that it has put common sense back into the picture of French political diagnosis and has reveal a modern president that is finally worth a modern state. Some of it is to the credit of the French voters but, we must realize, that most of it is due to Sarkozy and his team to have proposed a real program, a vision with content (a radical change since a long while).
The points that make Sarkozy campaign one of a kind in the French context:
1- He has dealt with a style that is not only in sharp contrast with his opponents but with all the tradition of political talk French politicians have always operated with, i.e. a sort of condescending view of how to explain things to the ‘people’.
2- The major move of the Sarkozy placement as a modern French statesman is the replacing of the right wing politics in a completely new framework that undercut both sclerosed right wind former view of their role and socialistic rhetoric of welfare, employment and care for the under-privileged citizen.
3- the campaign themes: une bouffée d’air frais
Sarkozy had dealt straightaway with what most politicians would have preferred not to deal with notably the immigration problem and policies, which have been left too long to the literary elaboration of Jean-Marie Le Pen and to the socialists moral entrepreneurs telling us, such as much of religious laissez-faire, that loving our follow immigrant is enough to deal with the issues of immigration which touches simply upon their economic integration, their well being in terms of education and possibilities to take advantage of the opportunities of a modern society, the dealing with long term unemployment, the housing matters and the avoidance of ghettoizing.
In fact, Sarkozy not only dealt with issue that the politicians have permitted since, for example Giscard D’Estaing 1978 laws on the familial gathering of immigrant and their family without ever understanding the implication of this welcomed rule on the impoverish stratum of the French population. The impoverished French natives did, not only having to deal with their losses of employment, but had to deal with a population that share the same problems without better solutions for it (rather than an increase of shared misery). Foreigners certainly suffer their share of struggle in this context. All in all, one needs to be very serious about those matters both for the native French population and the foreigners. Those matters do not disappear and develop along the life span of generation, that political scheduling do not cover easily.
Sarkozy´s political flair has been to deal once and for all with the aging Jean-Marie which, I hope, will make more for the clearing up of the issue of immigration than the manipulative techniques Mitterrand and some of his socialists followers have developed (see the campaign of 1983 ‘Touche pas à mon pote’ with its leader Harlem Désir who played the alternative voice of an assumed multicultural France.) But, as usual with the socialists, they do not identify the problem accurately, making a moral issue where people have lost the economic ground that help them to re-create a normal environment within a fast changing society.
4- Sarkozy also has dealt more efficiently on themes that should be socialists concern which is mainly ‘Work’. Here the blow to the socialists is certainly the most interesting since it is showing how socialism do not mean anything anymore. It has also place the UMP in the different configuration in the right wing movement since it is not dealing essentially with tradition and its protection but dealing with the ‘vivid force’ of the nation (a term that Chirac has managed to kill).
There was some humor in this campaign and Sarkozy mentioning great French socialists leaders such as Leon Blum and Jean Jaurés is obviously a blow to the socialists (he also mentioned the president Paul Doumer, a man from Cantal, in the Auvergne Region).
His main tactic is to tackle the shame of the 35 hours a week rule, which although difficult to replace directly will be complemented, in Sarkozy’s proposition, with a more flexible work laws allowing employers and employee alike not to pay tax on working hours done above the 35 hours limit.
Sarkozy has undermined the grounding of the socialists by dealing with matter most to people, their earnings and the sustainability of a certain standard of living, basically economy.
5- There is a legitimate concern for the accounting balance of the nation. Of course, this is not a fashionable topic in the public but it is central to the whole functioning of the nation. Interesting suggestion of splitting the ministry of economy into 2 or 3 parts leading to a more efficient dealing of budget and monetary matters will be a reform to follow up in the near future. Some interesting things are going to happen under the ministry of Economy, Finance and Employment with Jean Louis Borloo and Eric Woerth, minister of Budget and Public Administration.
6- The UMP has presented itself as a force of renewing of France. Socialists may have thought of themselves as genetically progressists’ people, but they have shown little sociological understanding of their country and even less so of economics. It is their weak point since the socialist theorist Proudhon must be their example in the matter. I mention French socialists have intellectually failed to grasp the sense in which socialism may have gone. They have scholarly failed to understand Karl Marx’s criticisms of Proudhon in this ‘The Misery of Philosophy’. They still hold to their catholic moral ethic view of economy today which shows how progressive they have remained over the years but also how little informed they are about intellectual progress in their understanding of economic matters.
The UMP has presented itself has the party to renew France and have made sure to play down the partisanship and have shown intelligence in their choice of government that reflect this line of work. I can only welcome warmly such a approach of reform that is counting on people that have been chosen having the conviction that reform is what need to be done under the lead of the prime minister Francois Fillon.
This wind of reform is greatly appreciated at the international level and firstly at the European level where France has to conquer back a leader role. I would salute and highly praise here the incredible exercise of Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister, has done welcoming Sarkozy and France future in a modern political configuration.
I would like to make some comments on the composition of the French government that demands notice:
There is a killing-off of the socialist’s rhetoric of renewing politics is bringing women to power. The government brings 7 women and 8 men which should sunk Ségolène Royale’s pretension to possess the philosophical stone of social overture.
There are some notable features of this government I want to point out and underline. For example, in direction of the French of North African origins, there is the naming of Rachida Dati at the Justice department. I would like to emphasis that Sarkosy shows that changes are real. We do not have the usual immigrant puppet in a under-secretariat dealing with things everybody knows will go nowhere. Instead, somebody of value is dealing with a department which matters are at the center of the morality of a modern democracy. In so many words, the new government make clear that immigrants are lead to play an important role in our democracy.
I am pleased to see madame Michèle Alliot-Marie back into the new government dealing with domestic policies. I am very supportive of the youngest member of the new government, Valérie Pécresse, 39 year old, who is dealing with an higher education and research. If the country has any pretension to foresee change and handle dynamically the social complexity of a modern nation, we need a renewal of the whole higher educational system. As such, she is a very important woman. I am also glad to see Alain Juppé to be back not only in the town of Bordeaux but also at the highest position where his decisiveness will be needed. To finish on the personal appreciation of those personality, I finish on Bernard Kouchner, which although emerging with the socialists during the 1980s, was a likable man. In fact, he was so because he is made obviously in a different mold than the personalities coming out the French socialist party apparatus.
6- Another point that confirm my optimism vis-a-vis Sarkozy reform of politics in France is not only his condemnation of the golden parachute for people such as Noel Forgeard the former CEO of EADS with 8.5 M Euro when he announced the laying out of 10 000 jobs! and handing over the future administrator a company in trouble. This is, one must notice, the personal friend of former president Chirac himself (donc tout va bien!) Sarkosy has to clear the mess up personally and as soon as possible. That is what he is doing: how much do you want to show that there are visible change under way (we could not fall lower than that anyway). On the serious side of the coin, EADS is an extremely important part of the European industry and we do not have the means to mess up with such a competitive and key domain of the industry. I guess Sarkozy is re-insuring both our German and British partners that they will be no petty dealing with industrial policies in the future with France.
A final point is that Nicolas Sarkozy brings the renewal of the French politics with this government on an honest recognition (which I have never witness before, see Sarkozy’s interview with US journalist [link to come]) that the mis-adaptation of French society is greatly due to the ill-adaptation of its political class to reform itself in view of realities. (This explains the discrepancy with the population who is not in the power to reform such profession).
I am positive that the French people will support the change engaged by this government by voting the majority for the MPs’ election to come in June this year (2007).