Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sarkozy's "Tidal Wave" Does Not Materialize

Since his election to the presidency of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy has acted like the cat who swallowed the canary. At meetings at the Elysee Palace with underlings and with foreign leaders in Paris and abroad, he has swaggered, grinned and draped his arm over others as though his natural right to rule is accepted by all.

In the first round of the French legislative elections last weekend, it looked like Sarkozy’s good fortune was continuing. Analysts declared that “a blue wave” was sweeping France and that Sarkozy’s UMP would win a crushing majority of seats. Sarko’s hand-picked Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, was in triumphalist mode at campaign stops during the past week. He predicted the demise of the left, speaking of the Socialist Party as the voice of the past. He urged French voters to board the Sarkozy vehicle to the future, claiming that France was headed for a major transformation, and that those left behind would count for little.

To illustrate his fitness for office and his insistence on change, Sarkozy put on his shorts and running shoes, as did Fillon, and the two ran around the Bois de Boulogne.
"There is a demand for change,” the president declared. “Never have the risks of inertia been so great for France as they are now in this world in flux where everyone across the world is trying to change quicker than the others, where any delay can be fatal.”

Sarkozy’s words were code language for the president’s intention to launch a full-scale assault on social programs and the rights of workers to organize and to strike. Among Sarkozy’s most cherished objectives is the elimination of the thirty-five hour work week for many companies in France, in favour of longer hours on the job. He also intends to dramatically cut the number of public employees. Make France a less egalitarian, lean-mean wealth creating machine---that is the Sarkozy recipe.

The president’s plans to rout the left and ditch the French social model in favour of one much closer to those in the United States and the United Kingdom ran into unexpected resistance this week, however. Sarkozy’s plan to switch the financing of French health care from payroll charges to a higher sales tax was used by Socialist leader Segolene Royal to great effect during the last week of the legislative campaign.

When it became clear to voters that the new president was proposing to finance a tax cut for the rich with higher taxes for the middle classes and the poor, many voters rallied to the side of the Socialists.

The UMP, which had been expected to win an enormous majority in the second round of voting ended up with between 319 and 329 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, according to exit poll projections. Meanwhile the Socialists increased the number of seats they held in the National Assembly from the 149 seats they won in 2002 to between 202 and 210 seats.
The next round in the struggle over France’s future will be partially determined in the new National Assembly. But the struggle is almost certain to be decided in the streets. When the Fillon government acts to implement the blueprint of Nicolas Sarkozy, wage and salary earners, students and political militants will resist. They will call strikes and they will take to the streets. How many of them answer the call to resist and how determined they are will make a very great difference to how things turn out.

The Socialist Party, buoyed by the stronger than expected showing in the the legislative elections, is about to undergo a dramatic internal struggle for power. Not only will the “old elephants”, such as Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Laurent Fabius, try to gain control of the party, there will be an all-out fight between the members of the party’s “first couple”. Segolene Royal and her partner Francois Hollande have announced that their personal relationship is at an end. Their separation will be political as well as personal. Royal wants the top job in the party, that of First Secretary, which is now held by Hollande.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"demand for change,” “risks of inertia", "world in flux ", "any delay can be fatal” are true statements, but for the rich people, not us. Capital owners need to gain "more and more", otherwise they will vanish; but this is not the case for us, We just need to have a life, and work to live, not live to work for those whose greed is getting wild and wilder day after day.