France Adrift


Eduardo Inclán is Maître en Histoire by the University of Toulouse II-Le Mirail

The current situation of the French government continues to deteriorate every day. Last Tuesday, the cabinet headed by Manuel Valls saved a confidence vote by just 25 votes in the National Assembly, with 31 Socialist MPs locked in abstention and the Government saved by the votes of the Radical Party. The Valls II cabinet is thus very damaged to set forth the reforms it has presented upon its return from last August's holidays, and therefore, it seems difficult that they will survive in the medium term. In addition, surveys are stubborn when showing a terrible political panorama for the future of France, with the Socialist Party sinking and its voters fleeing to the populist and extremist ideas presented by the National Front and Marine Le Pen. President Hollande is already rejected by 89% of the French population while he watches how his reform options lie stranded without having even left port. This situation doesn't seem to offer any viable alternative, since the UMP's Conservative opposition is still immersed in its internal quarrels, without suggesting any alternative model other than a return to Sarkozyism, now socially battered by the scandals and the open lawsuits.

And while talking of the need to meet the reformist commitments agreed with the European institutions, such as reducing the deficit by 50,000 million euros until 2017 and liberalising various aspects of the economic legislation to modernise economic and labour structures of the Republic, there's no one steering French institutions toward a new horizon of growth and new opportunities.

President Hollande seems to be overtaken by events, and flees to foreign policy summits (with issues like Iraq or Syria) to try to rebuild his statesman profile, while leaving Manuel Valls to deal with the French Socialist Party and its parliamentary group, which is forced to choose between political suicide by calling early elections, or do it in instalments by passing a series of laws which confront head-front with the program and promises leading him to power in 2012. Valls has to impose his authority on the Socialists MPs in order to develop his proposed reform of the nation, leading it to a more stable situation at all levels, while marking his differences with the European project led by Angela Merkel and the Bundesbank technocrats.

Against this background, the UMP should be clear that its role is to get out of its domestic absorption and submit a new leadership that makes it credible before the economic and social crisis plaguing France since 2011, and that prevents populism and extremist political forces from becoming the leaders of the political system of the second political and economic power of the EU.