Socialism in, Sarkozy out in France?
posted at 6:01 pm on April 23, 2012 by Morgen Richmond
Not quite yet, as there will be a run-off election on May 6, but it’s not looking good for current French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Story from France24, via Drudge:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist candidate François Hollande will face off in the second round of France’s presidential election after edging out the far right’s Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s first round of voting. Socialist presidential challenger François Hollande topped the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday with 28.4 percent of votes, while incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy finished second with 25.5 percent, according to exit polls. Those figures set up a widely expected run-off between Sarkozy and the candidate of France’s main opposition party who led most voter intentions surveys before the first round.
French analysts rushed to speculate on how the whole of the election results would affect the outcome of the May 6 run-off, and on what many saw as the impending return of the Socialist Party to the Elysee Presidential palace and a Socialist-led parliament.
The French left has spent the last 10 years as the country’s main opposition group, and had to digest three consecutive presidential defeats in 1995, 2002 and 2007. Former president François Mitterrand, who won back-to-back elections in 1981 and 1988, remains France’s only Socialist head of state since the end of World War Two.
French polling experts are predicting that the Socialist Hollande will ultimately win the run-off by a comfortable margin so the Sarkozy era is seemingly drawing to a close. Drudge is framing this as perhaps a sign of things to come for President Obama, as a foundering economy is apparently mostly to blame for Sarkozy’s electoral woes. But of course there is at least one key difference for the U.S. – socialism won’t be on the ballot come November. Or will it?
Socialism doesn’t carry the same stigma in other parts of the world as it does here, and conservatives in the U.S. are routinely mocked, even by President Obama himself, for referring either to him or his policies as ‘socialist’. When these accusations aren’t just laughed off completely (and they usually are), they are countered by the argument that even the most progressive Democrats are not calling for an end to free market capitalism, or government ownership of the means of production. But perhaps our liberal defenders of the President would like to explain why even an unabashed Socialist like François Hollande does not seem to be in favor of these either? In fact, in looking through Hollande’s campaign platform I wonder just how many of the policies he favors would be deemed too far left by our more ‘moderate’ progressives here in the U.S. Because I am seeing a lot of familiar themes. Hollande calls for a ‘public investment bank’, higher taxes and the closing of ‘tax loopholes’ for the wealthy, a surcharge on the profits of financial institutions, the right to marriage and adoption for gay couples, universal preschool, higher estate taxes, and more. But strangely, no calls for and end to capitalism or even the nationalization of any segment of the private sector. Hmm, maybe he’s really a closet progressive masquerading as a socialist?
Or could it just possibly be that progressives here in the U.S. are in favor of policies which would reasonably, and uncontroversially, be called ‘socialist’ just about anywhere else in the world? For me the second half of this clip from the Guardian, with Hollande staking out his position on the central debate of the French election, pretty much settles the question.