Political Prisoners of the Empire  MIAMI 5     



Havana.  April 10, 2014

A hard-liner to lead French government

Eduardo Febbro

After a backlash vote against Socialists in the recent municipal elections, French President Hollande opts for a turn to the right, naming Valls as Prime Minister, precipitating a rupture in the current government coalition

French President Francois Hollande (right) greets new Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Foto: AFP.

French voters moved to the right and Socialist President François Hollande chose to follow suit, given the severe reverse dealt his party in the March municipal elections. The day after the unprecedented defeat, in which the Socialist Party (PS) lost more than 155 municipalities with populations over 9,000, the entire cabinet led by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault resigned.

Hollande then named as Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, who had been head of the Ministry of the Interior. The change is as radical as the President’s choice is confusing, given the choice of a hard-liner, who in no way reflects the soft social democracy promoted during the administration’s first two years. Manuel Valls, the government’s most popular minister, is known as a social liberal, along the lines of the British Labor Party’s Tony Blair.

During a brief television appearance, Hollande promised "a reduced and combative government." This second adjective was immediately demonstrated with the naming of Valls, delivering a blow to the governing coalition of the Socialist and Green parties. Two Green ministers, Cécile Duflot and Pascal Canfin, heads of the Housing and Development ministries respectively, announced their unwillingness to serve as part of a cabinet headed by Valls. Both said that they considered the appointment an inappropriate response to problems facing France.

In 2013, Manuel Valls ordered the eviction of 20,000 travelers, significantly more than Sarkozy. Foto: Bogdan Danescu/ AP.

The Socialist right-wing applauded the move for good reason. The electorate which swept Hollande to office in 2012 abandoned him in the municipal elections and, moreover, the President has himself become a social liberal. He said in a post-election speech that he had received a "clear message" at the polls, which, he said, is a protest against "insufficient change, excessive delay, the lack of work, limited social justice and too many taxes."

The events, however, do not foreshadow any substantial change in policies implemented thus far by the Hollande government. Le Nouvel Observateur saluted the promotion of Valls, commenting, "It is precisely a result of the fact that François Hollande is not questioning his policies of balancing the budget, lowering labor costs and improving our industrial competitiveness, which made Manuel Valls an inevitable choice."

This call for austerity, as the formula needed to escape the economic crisis, flows from a commitment to liberal socialism identified with the figure of Manuel Valls. Is there anyone better to incarnate this purge than the heir to Tony Blair’s politics?

Hollande shed a tear for the left, promising a "solidarity pact" and a tax reduction through 2017. With this "solidarity pact" the President is looking to mitigate the consequences of the cornerstone of his administration, the famous, controversial "responsibility pact," through which companies are afforded tax breaks, in exchange for the hiring of more workers. The pact also implies cuts in public spending of some 50 billion euros.

The President, who got himself elected by opposing liberal policies and cuts proposed by the European Union, interpreted the March vote as a call for more austerity, more reforms and more obedience to market needs. As occurred with the right, when Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in 2007, between François Hollande, the candidate of equalitarian hope, and François Hollande the President, there is a huge difference and a mockery. It appears as if presidents elected in France recently have decided to do exactly the opposite of what they promised in their election platforms.

The leader of the liberal left on the economic front, Manuel Valls becomes Prime Minister with broad popular support (63 %), but has little to show for himself.

In the PS primary elections to choose a Presidential candidate, he received a mere 5.6% of the votes. The new Prime Minster is the nemesis of the PS left, of environmentalists and allies from Jean Luc Mélenchon’s group.

His tenure as Interior Minister was wrought with controversy and deception. His approach to the immigration issue, his public boasting about the number of deportations, won him the nickname of "gravedigger" of the firm but humanitarian policy Hollande had promised. The figures show that his actions were no different from those of Sarkozy. In 2013, Manuel Valls ordered the eviction of 20,000 travelers, significantly more than Sarkozy.

Hollande nominated to this leadership position a man who embodies two concepts: efficiency and authority. The perfect fit to conciliate the neoliberal demands of Berlin and Brussels. Perhaps the new Prime Minister will be more than a salesman of adjustments, cuts and sacrifice, but nothing will be able to reroute the trail of ruin Socialists are following. In 2008 the PS administered 509 municipalities of over 10,000 inhabitants, while the right held 433. In 2014, they were left with only 349, as compared to 572 won by the right. For the first time in its history, the far right-wing National Front won 14 municipalities. Hollande threw away a great fortune, his popular legitimacy.

Progressive currents have buried their last hopes. Those who recall the glorious night, two years ago, when they celebrated François Hollande’s victory, now feel as if that event took place a century ago, in another country or dimension of reality. Being a left-wing or moderate social democrat has lost its enchantment. (Excerpts from Rebelión)


Editor-in-chief: Pelayo Terry Cuervo / Editor: Gustavo Becerra Estorino
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