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A new era for France?
April 22, 2007 2:58 AM   Subscribe

Goodbye Jacques! Today french voters will get rid of Chirac - charmingly called "The Bulldozer". Although he was not as bad as Silvio, France is in dire need of economic reform - something Frau Merkel has already started in Germany. So who will win this important election? Meet the candidates: Royal, Sarkozy and Bayrou.
posted by homodigitalis (53 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Unless I'm wrong, today is only the first round, and the race is close enough to need a second. Am I right?
posted by Anything at 3:24 AM on April 22, 2007


Yep. I just hope that rightwing Le-Pen doesn't make it into the second round. It would be nice to have the charming Madame Royal as the new leader, but it seems like that only Sarkozy has the guts to make the needed ugly changes.
posted by homodigitalis at 3:49 AM on April 22, 2007


If some of them gets the majority, it's just gonna be just this round, and even a third round is possible. The point is it should be one that has majority.

And Sarkozy STINKS (hard), Sego useless, Bayrou not better and France fucked up.
posted by zouhair at 3:51 AM on April 22, 2007


Here some more background on the French Presidental Election (process).
posted by homodigitalis at 3:53 AM on April 22, 2007


Le Pen will probably do badly, thankfully, but only because Sarkozy has co-opeted potential Front National voters.

Sarko's campaign song and video. (Embedded video.) Hmmmmm.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:55 AM on April 22, 2007


The LRB's Jeremy Harding had a thinky piece Friday on the elections. Interesting to see what impact movements like ACLEFEU have.
posted by Abiezer at 4:04 AM on April 22, 2007


I think the idea that France is in "dire need of economic reform" is BS. Its true that France doesn't match the Wall Street Journal's ideals, but BFD, and screw the WSJ and its ilk anyway.

The people talking about "dire economic reform" are the same assholes who think that the minimum wage is evil incarnate, the same people who want to abolish OSHA and every other employee protection program that exists, the same people who think its just fine and dandy for executive "compensation" to increase by a factor of 600 or so while the people who actually, you know, *work*, see their "compensation" drop by a few percent, the same people who don't think its a problem that health care is unaffordable for a good many Americans, etc.

I'm sure the upper 1% of the upper 1% will really like it if Sarkozy wins, everyone else will have to listen to them crowing "even France gets it" while they fuck us even harder if he does. Fuck 'em, fuck "dire need for reform", and fuck Sarkozy.
posted by sotonohito at 4:42 AM on April 22, 2007 [9 favorites]


because Sarkozy has co-opeted potential Front National voters.

Wait, I thought only "protest voters" cast their votes for LePen.
Dirty little secret: some people, at least, actually do vote for le FN because they believe in what it stands for.
posted by psmealey at 4:42 AM on April 22, 2007


"I think the idea that France is in "dire need of economic reform" is BS."

So a high unemployment rate of almost 10% is a good thing?

From one of the links above ...

Government economic policy aims to promote investment and growth in a stable monetary and fiscal regime. The govt. of France successfully brought down unemployment rate from 12% to 9.7% in 2004.

Plus ...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4496797.stm

Overall I would say that France suffers some very similar problems like Germany does: a rigid labour market, too much red tape and a overall slow reaction to globalization.

I am certainly not saying it's all bad, but it could be better.
posted by homodigitalis at 4:57 AM on April 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Sometimes, I think about wishing they'd just elect the lady that looks pretty damn good in a bikini and doesn't have man hands. Then I remember that the last time I wished that, the poor Brits ended up with Margaret Thatcher. So, I save my wish for another time.
posted by loosemouth at 5:19 AM on April 22, 2007


certainly not saying it's all bad, but it could be better

vs.

France is in dire need of economic reform

make up your mind.

You can't reach a conclusion on an economy's health, or more importantly, a nation's standard of living, by looking at one cooked-up statistic, homodigitalis. But the only thing I know about French economics is that they have a lot of nuclear power plants and their farmers and truck drivers can mobilize themselves to mount impressive mass labor actions, so that's all I want to say on that.

Anyhoo, doing some wikipedia research on French politics, I was struck that under the 5th Republic, France has had only 2 presidents since 1981.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:20 AM on April 22, 2007


US unemployment is officially at 4.4%, but that number is not exactly trustworthy, and others estimate that unemployment may be much higher. But let's assume, for the sake of argument that the official number from the agencies now staffed with Bush appointees is the real number.

But simply having a job, any job, isn't really enough, now is it? Its like the Onion headline Bush Calls On Business Leaders To Create 500,000 Shitty Jobs By 2003 A good many people counted as employed are working jobs that put them well below the poverty level, jobs that leave them unable to pay even for the basics (remember, a full 30% of the homeless people in Washington DC have a full time job, it just isn't enough to pay for housing *and* food).

Its hard for employers to fire people in France, and you want me to think that's a bad thing? I'll agree that some people need to be fired, I've worked with more than few real losers myself, but at the same time the US "at will" employment leads to: Circuit City firing 3,400 people, not for incompetence, not because of any flaw on the part of the employees, but because the CEO ("compensation" for the CEO alone = >$20 million) thought the workers were overpaid.

If a higher unemployment rate is the price a society pays for jobs that actually pay a living wage, for healthcare for all, and for employees not getting massively screwed by their employers, I'll take it. Obviously I'd like to see lower unemployment as well, but if the choice is between a 10% unemployment rate, and people who work for a living getting screwed over, I'll take the high unemployment rate thanks all the same.
posted by sotonohito at 5:21 AM on April 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


"You can't reach a conclusion on an economy's health, or more importantly, a nation's standard of living, by looking at one cooked-up statistic, homodigitalis."

The so called economy is a huge and complex beast. Overall France is a modern country and has huge potential, but it faces stagnation in many areas.

The 'dire' need is IMHO comes from the ignorance of many french politician and voters over the global competition. I love the high french social (compared to the US anyway), but like Germany, Sweden and Italy they are finding out it's currently hard to finance and maintain. Many french people have good jobs, but many homeless people are camping on the streets of Paris. The social unrests of the last few years are also an indicator that something is rotton in the Republic.

I don't see a paradox in having an economy / society that has some excellent bits and some serious problems at the same time.

And btw statistics from the Economist are hardly cooked-up.
posted by homodigitalis at 5:40 AM on April 22, 2007


Exactly sotonohito.
The swivel-eyed bingo capitalists have a set of metrics to judge a society by, which is their right, but it's laughable when people without the excuse of naked self-interest buy into these too.
Health of the economy for whom? For all its many flaws, I'll take the creaky old European social compromise any day and try to move forward from there, rather than blindly dismantle a century and more of achievements to hit bullet point targets in some greedy cunt's disingenuous and self-serving PowerPoint socio-economic analysis.
posted by Abiezer at 5:40 AM on April 22, 2007 [6 favorites]


Its hard for employers to fire people in France, and you want me to think that's a bad thing?
Isn't it? If I own my own business, and some blowhard little twerp is starting to fuck it up, or maybe business turns bad for a little while, I'd like to have the option of telling some or all of my workers, "I don't want you to work for me anymore."

Restrictions on the ability of employers to let go employees is almost always discussed in the context of large corporations, who of course have no conscience and often do unconscionable things, all the more noticeable because they're big. But the same laws affect private citizens, too, and those are liberties I'd like to keep.
posted by adoarns at 5:51 AM on April 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


from a marxist point of view: Europe Needs “Structural Reforms”, [translated from GegenStandpunkt]
posted by kolophon at 5:51 AM on April 22, 2007


"If a higher unemployment rate is the price a society pays for jobs that actually pay a living wage, for healthcare for all, and for employees not getting massively screwed by their employers, I'll take it."

Many advanced economies here in Europe have the problem of permanent unemployment of highly skilled workers, while on the other side many high level jobs remain open because companies can't find the right people.

Sounds like a paradox ... some factors that play a role ...

The european labour market is very different from the US. It's often very hard and expensive to fire people. So many companies are very slow to hire extra people, because they add extra weight if the money flow goes down.

This also means that many 'bad apples' in companies are rarely fired, because it's easier and less expensive to drag them along. This blocks of course many opportunities for younger or better qualified people.

On the other side: many workers are glued to their jobs and are afraid to change companies to make a career. This once more creates immobility on the job market, skills, knowledge and contacts do not 'circulate' as freely as they could.

So many skilled people don't get the jobs they are (highly) trained for. So there is a huge waste of brainpower and skills around here.

Hope that explains my statements a bit better?
posted by homodigitalis at 5:52 AM on April 22, 2007


One more thing: France - once again like most of Europe - suffers from an aging society ... so the old pyramid scheme for pensions and social support doesn't work properly anymore.

China and Japan have similar problems, the US as well, but not as bad as Europe.
posted by homodigitalis at 5:55 AM on April 22, 2007


Another vote for "fuck you, Sarko".
posted by Wolof at 5:58 AM on April 22, 2007


homodigitalis But homeless people are camping in the steets of [insert any large US city here] too. We've got some pretty massive social unrest here in the US too. It isn't as if France is alone in this, or that the US isn't suffering from that sort of problem despite the US allowing its upper 1% to dictate our economy for their benefit.

Worse, the US has many non-headline grabbing problems that France doesn't. We've got people quietly dying because they can't afford their prescriptions, for example. Or let's take an even less dramatic example: people resigned to a life of pain because they can't afford to go to a dentist.

The US, I'd like to point out, apparently "competes" in the world market by shipping as much of our industrial capicity overseas to make the maximum possible use of sweatshop labor, while giving its own citizens minimum wage no-benefits jobs as Wal-Mart greeters. Way to go Wall Street...

As for an aging population, that's the best possible thing in the long term, and only a mild inconvenience in the short term. Lower population == fewer people to share the resources between. Sure, in the short term you have to support a large number of retirees, and I won't deny its a problem, but by its very nature that's a temporary problem.

I'm not an expert on the French economy, but I do know that in the US we could easily handle the extra Social Security load simply by uncapping the SS tax (remember: only the first $87k a person earns is taxed, that's great for Bill Gates it means that effectively none of his income is subject to SS taxes, while *all* of mine is, nice bit of regressive taxation).
posted by sotonohito at 6:00 AM on April 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


but many homeless people are camping on the streets of Paris.

I just spent a couple of days legging it all over Paris and I'd say I saw no more than the normal amount of homeless people. I also didn't get quite the same feeling of economic despair that I pick up when I am in England and outside of London (but I didn't really get outside of Paris).
posted by srboisvert at 6:24 AM on April 22, 2007


@sotonohito:

Sorry, none of my comments was meant as a pissing match a la France/Europe vs. the US of A.

Poverty, unemployment and etc. are ugly things no matter were you live. Overall the middle class is shrinking in most western nations and real income has actually fallen in many of these countries as well. Tax loopholes for the rich exist in almost all heavily taxed countries.

As for elites: France always has a (highly trained) political, academic, intellectual and social elite. Chirac and many other bigwigs have been caught doing ugly stuff. And look at Berlusconi - he trumps President Shrub easily in any political, economic and criminal area - apart from war mongering. Europe has it's fair share of idiots as well.

I personally thing that no society will ever be totally equal (although it's a good thing that modern law and order is based on the humanist ideal that everybody is 'the same'). I rather have an educated elite instead of stupid cronies, so the chances are a bit higher that they make 'better' decisions.

But all systems of administration can become to busy with themselves: any brit can tell you amazing stories about british civil services before Thatcher 'fixed' it. Some parts are better now, but even Tony Blair goal and statistic crazy system breeds new mutations and downfalls.

But back to France.

IMHO one big difference between the US and France is, that the french people often vehemently protest (on the streets) against the government and bring the country to a halt and force some serious discussions and often changes. French farmers are especially feared.

Overall I hope that a capable new President inspires France to get back in full swing. Sometimes a country simply needs something new just to get going.

Here in Germany Frau Merkel is not a very original thinker, but the grand coalition and coincided with last years Worldcup and gave the country a fresh start - which also helped to swallow some realy nasty reforms.
posted by homodigitalis at 6:29 AM on April 22, 2007


IMHO one big difference between the US and France is, that the french people often vehemently protest (on the streets) against the government and bring the country to a halt and force some serious discussions and often changes.
As it should be.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:32 AM on April 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Homeless people:

Report and pix from the BBC. and some more. Plus a closer look from the streets of Paris.
posted by homodigitalis at 6:33 AM on April 22, 2007


Royal's increase in minimum wage will be a disaster, numerous highly trained professionals only make 2000 euros per month. However, Sarkozy's poor support for universities will seriously hurt one of France's main advantages. I've not idea about Bayrou myself.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:36 AM on April 22, 2007


Remember that unemployment is the count of people looking for work; not the number of people who don't have jobs, or people who are bouncing between part time, or temporary work. It also misses anyone who is self employed but between gigs. Here is an example of how the unemployment rate doesn't tell the whole story. If you look at the US underemployement rate it is about 10% and has been for many years. So before you get all excited by the horror stories of 10% unemployment starting thinking about the benefits that 10% get (health care for example); then remind yourself that the employment situation isn't that much improved in the USA.
posted by humanfont at 6:47 AM on April 22, 2007


The govt. of France successfully brought down unemployment rate from 12% to 9.7% in 2004.
Mainly by redefining who got included into the unemployment statistics. It got so blatant that workers from the national statitistics bureau (INSEE) are currently on strike. They want unemployment numbers not to be published during the elections as they believe these numbers are grossly misleading.
posted by Fruny at 6:48 AM on April 22, 2007


Remember that unemployment is the count of people looking for work

I was under the impression that the unemployment numbers (in the US) were largely based on the number of people who have filed for unemployment assistance. At least that seems to be the measure that is constantly referred to whenever the news announces the monthly unemployment numbers. Obviously, if that is the main measure, they are missing an enormous number of people who are not on the assistance roles (either they've exhausted their benefits, given up completely, don't qualify for some reason, or are not eligible in the first place.)
posted by Thorzdad at 6:54 AM on April 22, 2007


Sweden and Italy they are finding out it's currently hard to finance and maintain.
A lot better that slackig into the dream of a better future for the next generation, working 50 years and seeing all you did for
the present generations was useless, that you could have done a lot less and you would have because the present generation is feeling again all the uncertainity, all the fear of not nowing if one will able to maintain a lifestyle in the future..and surely nobody is talking about a ferrari, wealth and fame lifestyle..we are talking about not being forced into living into mobile homes like gypsies, needing to give up all the social work done in a city to move to another.

Curiously, all the hype for mobilization and change at any cost and permanent freedom revolution comes from people that either have absolutely nothing to lose or people that can comfortably fall back if they fail.

The social unrests of the last few years are also an indicator that something is rotton in the Republic.
That social unrest you are mentioning , probably referring to the balieu "unrests" that happened in 2005. What is rotten , but not necessarily only in France, is the exploitation and incitation of racism as cover-up for labour dumping practices.

Apparently it is a lot better to incite people into thinking the "niggers" are stealing their jobs then having the same people realize they wouldn't come if they weren't desperate enough to accept half the wage or accept worse compromises..like Mexicans in US.


It's often very hard and expensive to fire people.
You are stuck in old rethoric, it's immensurabily more easy to fire people in Italy now , compared to 10 years ago. Now most youngster from 20-40 have an hard time finding a decent paying job, even if they can almost be fired at will and are routinely hired with contracts that are at very best one year long. After being tried and test all over again, they are fired to hire workforce with less expectations, unless they have aquired skills that are extremely needed...yet as nobody really is ever that fundamental to any company, they are just let go.

Obviously extremely qualified and skilled people should start their own little, one or few person company..yet despite enormous facilitation, capital welfare and ideological favor for free enterprise, they still just can't cut it because they lack financial leverage..they become property of banks, that pick the best , take over the control and exploit the revenue flow till it lasts..rinse and repeat for thousands, throw crumbs to the others.

Most of the introduced fluidity in the labour market is just being exploited by capitalistic entities not at all interested in improving labor conditions, enriching markets with actual value and investing into risky reasearch.
posted by elpapacito at 7:15 AM on April 22, 2007


I just got back from Paris this morning. I attended a beautiful wedding on Saturday in Montmormency.

Once a few wine bottles were emptied, it was all politics around the table. From what I observed, no one really likes any of the candidates and all are seen as highly flawed in one way or another.

Segolene Royale seems well-liked, but it was generally accepted that she had no program and that the left-wing of the French body politic was so fractured that there is little hope of any meaningful progress under a Segolene presidency. (Oddly, EVERY French speaker referred to Royale only by her first name. All the other candidates, even the other woman whose name escapes me, by last name.)

Sarkozy is viewed uniformly as "hard" although quite a few Frenchmen were quick to add "like De Gaulle" in both the positive and negative sense.

Opinions of Bayrou (and it may be said of all of the other candidates save Le Pen) were largely non-existent.

There was much talk about the tactics voters might take. Today is the general election, a run-off between the top two occurs in two weeks. In the last election, tactical French voting gave Le Pen 21% of the votes in the general election - more than those who actually support him.

There appears to a concensus - at least among the few dozen French I spoke with - that something in France needs to change and that the government is where this "change" must take place. Very few of the people with whom I spoke offered any suggestions for what these changes should be. Nearly all admitted change in France is hard. People 25-30 years old seemed very pessimistic.

My straw poll result: Royale v. Sarkozy in the run-off in May.
posted by three blind mice at 7:42 AM on April 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


although quite a few Frenchmen were quick to add "like De Gaulle"

That seems to trump everything else in terms of ascending to the Presidency in France. Both Mitterrand and Chirac were both seen as "like de Gaulle" (at least in terms of their bearing, as well as their visions for France in a united Europe), despite coming from opposite sides of the aisle.

Royale seems a compelling candidate, I will definitely be watching with rapt attention.
posted by psmealey at 8:05 AM on April 22, 2007


As to the cost of firing people, I have assisted to a few cases at the Prud'Hommes, a court for cases opposing employees and employers. 90% of the cases are firings. Some are solved amiably at a cost of around 10k€; compensation if the employee wins is in that same order, or higher (approx one year of salary).

Cases are first discussed amiably, with one representative of employees and one of employers, and legal representation (although syndicalists sometimes replace advocates, as they have lots of experience on these themes). In some cases there is no settlement, and the case is decided by two representatives of employees and two of employers, and a clerk who is often a judge in his day job, but has no voice. Last, if there were two voices for each side, the trial is rescheduled with a judge who has a fifth voice.

The law only allows people being fired if there is a "cause réelle et sérieuse" - real and important reason - making it impossible for them to continue to work in this company. In this case, there is a 30-day notice. Additionally, if the employee is at fault, the firing can be without notice. And if the fault was really important, he has little unemployment benefits.

I feel this explains adequately why the cost of employing people is so high in France. Additionally, I have some sweet words for the minimum wage, but I'll save that for another comment.
posted by Tobu at 8:08 AM on April 22, 2007


Great NYT op-ed by one of my favorite historians, Tony Judt on the election and Chriac's legacy, making some important and interesting arguments about where France and the EU generally are headed vis a vis the rest of the world. Chriac, Judt argues, was a damn good president, not just a good politician. And yes, he takes a shot at freedom fries, as any self-respecting columnist on this question should.

Thorzdad is correct- American unemployment stats are based only on those who are actively looking for work and accordingly significantly understate the numbers. The old saw of falling back on "high" French unemployment to criticize Western Europe's economic policies doesn't stick. As Judt points out, the picture would be even less rosy if we didn't have so many dark-skinned males serving time in our prisons (and who are therefore exempt from the unemployment stats). I'm not sure what criteria France uses to calculate its own numbers, but don't think for a minute that we don't have a crisis of our own.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 8:17 AM on April 22, 2007


homodigitalis: I wasn't trying to make it a US vs. France pissing match either, though it may have seemed like it.

What I'm saying is that the idea of "hard changes" is attractive, its like a Hollywood movie. Only the bold hero has the whatittakes to make the hard choices that everyone else is afraid of. But its a load of BS. France isn't doing particularly worse than most other Western nations at the moment. They've got problems, but BFD, so does the US, England, Germany, etc.

Worse is that "hard choices" usually translates as "anyone who works for a living is going to get screwed, the rich bastards will be given tax breaks", and I'm absolutely opposed to that. I'm especially opposed when "hard choices" means "doing what the Wall Street Journal thinks would be a good idea", because the WSJ and other similar publications exists only to tell the upper 1% what they want to hear. I'm not going to say that the WSJ is never right, or that the best choice in any situation is to do the opposite of what the WSJ says, but if we let our economic decisions be made on the basis of what benefits the top 1% it screws everyone else.

The world economy is, as always, not as healthy as anyone would like. Peak oil is coming, peak food seems to have already arived [1], etc. Jobs, in manufacturing especially, are being shifted to the third world which hurts the first world economy and doesn't do a whole lot for the third world economy since the wages are poverty level even for the places the factory jobs are being sent to.

My point is that these are not problems unique to France, and that the "hard choices" BS is just that: BS.

As for Germany, I dunno much about the German economy. I don't like Merkel much, but that's mostly due to her kowtowing to my country's president rather than any other policy on her part, I know nothing about her policies so I can't object to them. There's also the fact that the name of her party makes my hackles rise.

Thorzdad: The US unemployment numbers don't come from people applying for unemployment benefits. But they do stop counting people as unemployed after they've been unemployed for a certain length of time (I forget how long offhand), so if you've been out of work for longer than they think you should have been, you magically stop being unemployed.

At this point I don't think any numbers coming from any agency where Bush can pick staffers are reliable. They've demonstrated, repeatedly, that the poeple he puts into power either put politics over truth, or are criminally incompetent, or both. So, I'm betting that the *real* unemployment rate in the US is going to be quite a bit higher than the reported number.

[1] For the past four years we've been consuming about 100% of our planetary food production, no reserve that means. Worse we're starting to shift crop acerage that once produced food to fuel, the riots over corn prices in Mexico are, I fear, just the beginning.
posted by sotonohito at 8:36 AM on April 22, 2007


...swallow some realy nasty reforms.
posted by homodigitalis at 6:29 AM on April 22


the only reforms I'm aware of are the movement to put the university system on the U.S. models: raise fees and put an emphasis on research productivity.

The nasty taste is the poisoning of the social democratic reforms that arose out the the great-depression and WWII in the US and Europe.
posted by geos at 8:43 AM on April 22, 2007


The people talking about "dire economic reform" are the same assholes who think that the minimum wage is evil incarnate, the same people who want to abolish OSHA and every other employee protection program that exists, the same people who think its just fine and dandy for executive "compensation" to increase by a factor of 600 or so while the people who actually, you know, *work*, see their "compensation" drop by a few percent, the same people who don't think its a problem that health care is unaffordable for a good many Americans, etc.

Very true in my experience. I've never met a conservative that understands basic economics. It's just a war against the other party to them, as if they completely denied the existence of an economy altogether (which is explains why the economy routinely suffers under their leadership, according to long term studies). It's strange to me that they think borrowing more, and making war and building walls and prisons work so well to solve their pet problems, never stopping to consider a demand-side solution, and never realizing that their supply-side solution contradicts their personal principles on government.
posted by Brian B. at 8:45 AM on April 22, 2007


The US unemployment numbers don't come from people applying for unemployment benefits. But they do stop counting people as unemployed after they've been unemployed for a certain length of time (I forget how long offhand), so if you've been out of work for longer than they think you should have been, you magically stop being unemployed.

the real problem with the US jobs numbers is underemployment: constant churn between low-wage essentially or officially temp jobs keeps wages down, efficiency!

an interesting statistic would be to chart the number of people holding down more than one job, since oh, Nixon...
posted by geos at 8:52 AM on April 22, 2007


Since Chirac wasn't going to run again, is it really fair to say "French voters will get rid of" him?
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:07 AM on April 22, 2007


I was just talking to an 80-year-old Frenchwoman who went today to vote here in Barcelona. Apparently the expatriate community turned out heavily, and the line was ridiculously long. She said there were lots of young people waiting to vote.

Then she explained to me that "Segolène" (good observation, three blind mice!) only spoke in vague generalities about "uniting the French people", while Sarkozy at least had a clear program: no more Turks in France. And of course, no one wants to see the Front National win, and so you have to vote for the candidate who best serves as a barrier to Le Pen. I just nodded my head.
posted by fuzz at 9:14 AM on April 22, 2007


First of all, a couple of nit-picks on the original post: there are not just 3 candidates in this election, there are 12 (9 on the left, 3 on the right) though it does appear to come down to 3 leading candidates. And, with that many candidates, a second turn is pretty much guaranteed.

That said, having actually read the platforms for all the candidates (I'm French so I had to :) ) in order to vote, I think that Sarko is probably more in line with US-style Democrats (along the Clinton line of the party) than people outside France seem to believe.

The hard choices he presents are, for example, lowering taxes and red tape for new start-ups (it's almost impossible to start a new company in France these days because of the red tape), admit that outsourcing is a fact without taking a protectionist attitude towards it, lower some of the social offerings that are draining the state (for example, limiting unemployment payments to a cap of 5 years instead of guaranteeing them forever)

France is having a hard time grappling with the fact that it's no longer a world leader, from an economic standpoint, and Sarko is the only candidate in this election that appears to say that he wants to change things (the left wing candidates either want the status quo or more social protection while LePen thinks kicking immigrants out is the solution and Bayrou believes France's future is predicated on strong agricultural support.

It's not that Sarko is the best choice, it's just that he's the least bad one.
posted by TNLNYC at 10:11 AM on April 22, 2007 [1 favorite]




fuzz: it never ceases to amuse me (and by amuse, I mean, astound) that a certain section of expats (usually retired) will vote for xenophobic or openly racist parties in their mother country's elections.

Anyway, for those who like exit polls, as reported by Le Temps in Switzerland in a bit of informational arbitrage, here you go.
posted by holgate at 11:07 AM on April 22, 2007


I do know that in the US we could easily handle the extra Social Security load simply by uncapping the SS tax (remember: only the first $87k a person earns is taxed, that's great for Bill Gates it means that effectively none of his income is subject to SS taxes, while *all* of mine is, nice bit of regressive taxation).

You'd get a lot more by taxing non-wage income, then, as Gates' salary is relatively puny. And if you were to un-cap SS taxes, the program would deviate even further from the concept of "insurance" and become a welfare program by nearly any definition. Some argue (Josh Marshall, IIRC, among others) that doing so would erode middle-class support for Social Security. Which would be just fabulous. So keep banging that drum!
posted by Kwantsar at 11:22 AM on April 22, 2007


Exit polls: it's Sarko v Sego in the second round. What Bayrou does with his endorsement could swing it now...
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:09 PM on April 22, 2007


@srboisvert: Thanks for that highly interesting link. I have to read several times and do some research myself - but it is deep and interesting!
posted by homodigitalis at 12:25 PM on April 22, 2007


@TNLNYC: "nit-picks on the original post"

Sorry for not offering all candidates in my post. IMHO only those three seemed worth mentioning.

"France is having a hard time grappling with the fact that it's no longer a world leader, from an economic standpoint"

Agreed. It's a abit like the british old empire syndrom. I guess all former super powers suffer from it - look at Russia. Their only super power left are it's resources and corruption.
posted by homodigitalis at 12:28 PM on April 22, 2007


@geos: "the only reforms I'm aware of are the movement to put the university system on the U.S. models: raise fees and put an emphasis on research productivity."

The grand coalition of CDU/CSU (conservatives) and SPD (social democrats) is trying to reform the health system, energy market, federal law, pensions and labour market ... again.

Here german politics suffers from too much 'Konsens', any good or powerful change/idea is so long discussed, distored and cut down until it's useless or even more damaging then the old system.

Spiegel - one of germany's greatest magazine - has also an international site (english) for some stuff:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/
posted by homodigitalis at 12:37 PM on April 22, 2007


France - once again like most of Europe - suffers from an aging society

Uh, that's not right. The France part, that is. The part of France that's in Europe has a birth rate of 11.99 per 1000/population. The "overseas France" has a much higher birthrate. C'mon people, can't you remember your stereotypes? The French go at it like rabbits! :)

For comparison, the US has a birth rate of 14.14 per 1000/pop, Germany 8.25, Japan 9.37, Russia 9.95, the EU 10.00, the UK 10.78, Canada 10.78 and Australia 12.14. [source]
posted by Kattullus at 1:35 PM on April 22, 2007


@Kattullus: Sorry, but these birthrates just underline my point, they are way to low to at least keep current population numbers constant:

http://www.cbw.cz/phprs/2007041003.html


In most developed countries there’s a rapid increase in the ratio of dependent persons to the economically active part of the population. In countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)–an international organization that helps governments tackle economic, social and governance challenges–this ratio was, on average, 25 percent in 2000, but by 2020 it will rise to 35.8 percent. While the situation is better in the U.S. (the ratio was 20.9 percent in 2000 and will rise to 29.1 percent by 2020), European Union states are aging at an above average rate. By 2020, in the 15 old EU member countries, 44.8 percent of the population will be dependent on the work of economically active people. In France and Italy it will be over 50 percent and in Hungary it will be 58 percent of the population. Even though dependent persons include children up to 15, most of the increase is attributed to pensioners. Nevertheless, if the birth rate were to rise suddenly, the problem would temporarily get even worse.
posted by homodigitalis at 2:05 PM on April 22, 2007


homodigitalis I'm rather surprised to see you claiming Germany's reforms as Merkel's success, considering that the only reform she's introduced that I'm aware of is a singularly botched healthcare reform. The truth is, Merkel is reaping the benefits from the Hartz reforms introduced by her much-maligned predecessor Gerhard Schröder. Not that like Hartz (a felon) or Schröder (Putin's pal) much, but credit where credit is due.

As for France's "dire" economic state, I wouldn't deny that its left in particular could benefit from a dose of economic realism, but I also take the diagnoses of the likes of "The Economist" (never mind the WSJ) with a very large pinch of salt. I read the Economist quite regularly, and I've noticed, for instant, that its regular poll of experts consistently underestimates future European growth and overestimates future US growth. Thing is, "Economist" writers as well as readers tend to suffer from a strong pro-US-UK bias. And yes, comparing European and US unemployment numbers is like comparing apples and oranges. Unemployment stats are always iffy, but American unemployment numbers in particular discount large groups of the population.

I'm not particularly thrilled by the French poll result. The only candidate that had presented a realistic economic plan and avoided shrill nationalism, Bayrou, has finished an honourable but useless third. Sarkonomics have enough voodoo to supply the whole bajou, and he has a lot of campaign favours to pay back to some friends in high places (the Bouygues group, a construction firm that also happens to own the ludicrously Sarkophile TF1 TV network, and the Dassault and Lagardère families, weapon-makers with equally substantial media holdings). Ségolène Royal has seemed at best naïve, at worst stupid with comments like her kudos for the Chinese justice system.
posted by Skeptic at 3:02 PM on April 22, 2007


Thing is, "Economist" writers as well as readers tend to suffer from a strong pro-US-UK bias.

To be honest, I must say that it is less a cultural Anglo-Saxon bias, than the natural bias of a wealthy, professional readership in favour of an economic environment where their income is more lowly taxed and their wealth is not redistributed. Curiously, just the kind of reforms that the "Economist" tirelessly promotes. (And don't take me wrong: as somebody whose income is crippled by Belgium's rather crushing income tax and Social Security contributions, I do quite sympathise with the sentiment. But I'm at least aware of its egoistic nature).
posted by Skeptic at 3:19 PM on April 22, 2007


The grand coalition of CDU/CSU (conservatives) and SPD (social democrats) is trying to reform the health system, energy market, federal law, pensions and labour market ... again.


I meant the only reforms i am familiar with: I have been working in a German university.

From talking to other young academics the result on reforms job-wise has been that it is easier for University to make senior hires, but post-habilitation it is even harder to find a position in Germany than it was...

and now students pay 1000 euro a year in fees...
posted by geos at 4:55 PM on April 22, 2007




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