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French Politics – More Hypocrite Than Us “Tu Meurs” (You Die)

Politics / France Jul 03, 2013 - 03:44 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Anybody viewing the litany of scandals and scams marking French politics, the economy and business, and social issues from a suitable distance away from ground zero can only say “Ooh la la!”.

Rumors that President Francois Hollande has threatened his government with his own personal resignation – and the likely return of Nicholas Sarkozy – if they go on refusing to keep a “tight ship in adverse times” are treated seriously by several reputed political commentators reporting in French media, including 'Le Monde'. The latest proof of that came with the instant sacking of Ecology minister Delphine Batho, this week. She had criticized the budget cuts hitting her ministry more than others. She had not retracted. So she was sacked on the spot.

The Bernard Tapie “affaire” winds on and powers up the political hierarchy, also directly bringing Sarkozy and IMF director Christine Lagarde into the affair, as well as Sarkozy's role as treasurer for the failed 1995 presidential bid of Edouard Balladur, possibly using kickbacks from the sale of French submarines to Pakistan. Wikipedia lays out some facts of the “Karachi affaire' ending, in Pakistan, with the 2002 killing of 11 French engineers and 2 Pakistanis in a bus bombing.

Hollande's Economy minister Pierre Moscovici is now pushed into an entirely defensive role by the state's spiraling budget deficit, set to hit 4.1% of GDP in 2013 and not the 3.7% promised, claimed and “proven” with fake but official data, meaning sure and certain further taxes, charges and levies on businesses and private citizens. The outgoing president of the employers' federation MEDEF, Laurence Parisot in a France-2 TV interview on primetime, this week, slammed all past French governments but curiously not especially the Hollande government.

What she had to say was too grave – the so-called “French model of society” is finished, French businesses are so short of orders and starved of bank loans they face possible ruin. She said globalization can either save, or totally ruin France. Politicians have to decide, very fast.

This rational conclusion is now far from “interdite” in France. So much less than being the so-called Gallic exception, the French economy, public finances and society  are Club Med. The quickest check on how the economy, employment and society are faring in Club Med Land sets the brutally simple question of why French unemployment is not yet – not yet – running at 20 percent for adults and 50 percent for young persons.

Talking around that dangerously threatening reality is the daily task of Francois Hollande, but to date his results are atrocious. With popularity ratings in poll after poll trailing at under 35 percent – or 65 percent dissastisfied – Hollande is now the most unpopular president France ever had. Whatever he does, whether he sharply criticizes NSA snooping of France – then forbids Evo Morales's presidential jet to use French airspace on the outside possibility it might have Edward Snowden also on board – to his handling of the carefully-sidelined but expensive Mali war, and his bizarre relations with Angela Merkel, or his strangely hesitant way of public speaking – everything is negative.

Faced with an impossible challenge, the essentially “social-liberal economy” mindset of Hollande's government and its policy makers have broken ranks in what French call “sauve qui peut”, the time-worn endgame of promising the moon to an electorate treated with absolute contempt. This is the breeding ground for affaires – which come at an increasing pace and show the idiot electorate they were firstly brainwashed then sucked dry of their cash, and dumped in the trash.

This fin-de-regime context and atmosphere now permeates every corner of French politics. After the Jerome Cahuzac affair – the Parti Socialiste budget and tax minister with a Swiss bank account he lied about – French media now has the dirty linen of the Delphine Batho sacking to wash, in public. Her Ecology ministry, at one time a high flyer for always-increasing budget allocations to spend on Climate Crazy alternative economy fantasy projects – called “sustainable” - has now been sharply retrograded. The reason was economic. Projects with an astronomic Talk:Do ratio could not be sustained, there was no bottom line except government credits to swell the porkbarrel and keep the party going.

Hollande has increasingly distilled “meaningful asides” into his speeches, threatening Club Med austerity cures for the French, but the media has played French in pretending this is only bluster. The PIIGS option is surely and certainly on the table for France.

For French the “fusible qui saut”, the shock firing of the Parti Socialiste convert Delphine Batho, who switched sides from the imploding Europe Ecologie Les Verts, is the first time Hollande has ejected a minister for criticising his policies. This is despite the outspoken Industrial recovery minister Arnaud Montebourg's public lambasting of Hollande's policy on serial factory and steel works closures.

The move highlighted the simplest of all realities, shamefacedly admitted by Economy minister Moscovici, that government overspending on the basis of false or “unrealistically optimistic” economic growth forecasts – produced by his ministry – had to stop.  The economics and finance minister announced earlier that France must make additional budget savings of around 28 - 30 billion euros over the next two years to restore public finances.

Batho's ministry was the worst hit outside Defence, with a 7% funding cut, prompting her to tell a French radio station that it was a "bad budget" that had let down and disappointed the people – meaning the 2.5% of the voting population who voted for her ally, Norwegian-origin Eva Joly who stood as Ecology candidate in the 2012 presidential race. Batho claimed that the environment and sustainable development were still a "critical priority" for anybody in power.

The Green Fuze is therefore surely and certainly blowing, in France. The stance of the Green party, whose action playing French politics and creating a “clientelist” system of backhanders and potboilers for the faithful is well-known but small scale to date despite all its attempts, is very easy to forecast. Knowing it has nowhere to go except on the coat-tails of the Parti Socialiste, it will cling on to all and any power it still has – after a few ritual whinings.

This shows the rot in European politics is far advanced. Club Med classic Portugal's prime minister said on Tuesday night he would not resign after his government was plunged into crisis by a second ministerial departure in two days. In a televised address Pedro Passos Coelho said he would “work for stability” and had rejected the resignation offer of his foreign minister, Paulo Portas, who nonetheless quit, saying he “fundamentally disagreed” with Coelho's austerity programme.

In France however, the Greens are so short of options for clinging onto power and maintaining their own small-but-growing porkbarrel filled with citizen and taxpayers' cash, that further resignations by “the Greenies” is unlikely. Batho's sacking is however serious because it shows the present French government is riven with dispute and dissent – any near-term election would consign Hollande and the Parti Socialiste back into the political wilderness for decades.

"It looks like an end-game for the government" is the recurring comment from political observers in France. Hollande has only two options – and one of them is his shock resignation, creating a new election. This will return Nicholas Sarkozy and the UMP, one of the most divisive, unpopular, incompetent and corrupt governments France ever had. Until Hollande arrived.

Any future government, whether pseudo-right or pseudo-left will almost certainly have to apply ferocious austerity measures, and join the Club Med. For that reason alone, French public opinion is confused and divided – and above all fearful of the future.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2013 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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