Cutting the Crust: Leading to the French Presidential Runoff – RantAWeek
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Cutting the Crust: Leading to the French Presidential Runoff

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Posted by mjdudak on April 22, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Today, France held its first round of presidential elections, with the unsurprising result of Francois Hollande winning. As we have previously discussed, this outcome was expected, and Nicolas Sarkozy placing second was also expected. In the few weeks before the election, it appeared as if Sarkozy might actually beat Hollande in the first round, and then lose in the runoff. However Sarkozy was largely hurt by the surprisingly large turn out for the far right candidate Marine Le Pen. So let us break down what these results actually mean for the May 6 runoff election, and what they mean for France’s future as a whole.

Probably the most surprising result of this race was Marine Le Pen garnering 20% of the vote. Marine Le Pen is a far right candidate from the National Front. The National Front is almost the equivalent of the American Tea Party. The National Front has very conservative economic views, meaning less government spending, less taxing and even calling for abandoning the Euro. Yet despite these views, the National Front began to focus on issues, as it always has, of immigration. Le Pen essentially advocated curbing all immigration coming into France. These views ended up attracting enough people to show Le Pen’s party’s growing popularity. While Le Pen will not make it into the runoff round, she still will likely have a large future impact on France.

After leading in polls for months, and then beginning to lose ground, Hollande won his ground back and garnered an impressive 28% of the vote. While this may not seem like much, when taking into account that there were 10 candidates in the race, 28% is an impressive amount. Hollande looks set to win against Sarkozy if the election were to be held right now, but Hollande is losing ground, and fast. Anything could happen over the next two weeks, and Hollande could lose. Hollande appeals to most voters because is a very strong advocate for social welfare programs to many, something the French hold very dear. He has vowed to lower the state pension age back down to 65 after Sarkozy raised it to 67, as well as lowering the retirement age back to 60 after Sarkozy raised it to 62. Sarkozy’s moves sparked large scale protests throughout France and even threatened to shut down the oil refineries in October, 2010. For this reason, Hollande’s vows are beloved. Yet his means of obtaining those vows may force more workers out of a job in the first place.

Hollande’s plan to obtain more money for government spending is solely through tax hikes. One of his key proposed tax hikes is a 75% income tax for the top bracket. While many French citizens usher this in as a plan to right income inequality, it will likely have an adverse effect on business. Tax hikes in and of themselves are rarely all bad, but this large of a tax hike will likely scare away business from an already business-adverse France. Business investment in France has been dwindling for years, but this large of a tax hike may drop it sharply. Investors and entrepreneurs will likely rather go to any of the neighboring countries with lower tax rates to start a business. Hollande promises great social welfare for the French, but his means of following through and cutting the budget deficit simultaneously is simply too drastic.

So while Hollande tries to win the presidency with too drastic of measures, Sarkozy will still likely lose, despite his fairly moderate conservative views. His position as the centre-right candidate would seem to indicate that he would have a nice mix of some tax hikes and spending cuts. Instead, Sarkozy is proposing just spending cuts. Which with rising unemployment, and more and more people in need of welfare, spending cuts will be increasingly unpopular. Hollande’s programs have many flaws, but they have behind them the mass appeal that Sarkozy lacks.

Hollande likely wins with a flawed plan, Sarkozy will not give in and Le Pen does well, but what does that mean for France’s future? Well, France can expect more taxes, less business and more welfare. It can expect a battle from conservatives against raising those taxes that would make the political climate much like the one in the US. And the far-right will see rising influence. Le Pen may not have come close to winning, but her supporters will get behind Sarkozy to put him closer to Hollande, but not close enough. But the rise of Le Pen’s party will make it increasingly hard for Hollande to pass his plans through parliament. France in the near future may soon be facing a stalemate between the right and the left much like the US has been facing since 2010. How it deals with it is anyone’s game.

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