French legislative elections could bring decisive Socialist victory

With polls showing recently-elected French President Francois Hollande at a level of popularity less than only that of Charles DeGaulle and Nicolas Sarkozy at this point in their infant presidencies, all signs point to the party of France???s second-ever Socialist president winning a decisive majority in parliamentary elections June 10 — with run-offs June 17.

Should the Socialists emerge in control of the 577-member National Assembly over the next two Sundays, it will mean more than simply affirming Hollande???s appointments of a prime minister and Cabinet.  Rather, it will ensure enactment of his decidedly left-of-center agenda: lowering the retirement age from 62 to 60, raising the marginal tax rate on annual incomes over one million euros to 75 percent, and a new 45 percent tax rate for those earning more than 150,000 euros ($195,000) a year.

Under an Hollande regime, BusinessWeek calculated, ???[c]orporate France would end up paying an extra 23.8 billion euros ($31.3 billion) in taxes.???

In terms of the world, a Socalist parliament would smooth the path toward Hollande???s plan to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan a year earlier than predecessor Sarkozy had planned, and — perhaps most importantly — his campaign call for  renegotiation of the European Union???s fiscal compact.  This would underscore Hollande as the European voice of a ???growth agenda??? over the ???austerity agenda??? championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the plan to overcome the debt that grips the continent.

Although much of the strong hand of the left in France is due to the popularity of Hollande himself since taking office — including the slashing of his own salary and those of his Cabinet by 30 percent — the left???s current momentum also has a lot to do with the split of the right.  Simply put, in the month since center-right President Sarkozy???s defeat, his UMP Party has been divided in a power struggle between his two would-be heirs: Jean Francois Cope, the party???s floor leader in parliament, and Francois Fillon, who was Sarkozy???s prime minister throughout his presidency (2007-12).

Their feud has virtually  nothing to do with issues or ideology and more to do with who leads the party by the time Hollande???s term is up in 2017.

The dispute within the UMP only enhances the chances of the emergence of the ???anti-Hollande??? that Hollande himself most probably hopes for: Marine LePen, head of the anti-EU, anti-immigrant National Front, who stunned France and the world in the first presidential balloting in April by coming in a never-anticipated  third — 18 percent of the vote — behind Hollande and Sarkozy.   Currently holding no seats in the Assembly, the National Front is sure to wind up with some after June 17 and thus give the 43-year-old LePen a national platform.

As much as some on the American right admire LePen for her hard-line on immigration and the EU, her full platform is in no way conservative.  The daughter of National Front founder Jean Marie LePen admires Vladimir Putin, invokes the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and speaks of a vision of the ???ecological and environmental dimension, specifically seeking to counter all dumping and to make our planet advance towards greater well-being.???

The same candidate who wants France out of NATO and the EU made it clear she is not critical of all international organizations, and agreements. Le Pen wants to apply America???s Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which legally separated investment banking and commercial banking (and was repealed in 1999), to ???the banking system of each country,??? and supports revival of the Havana Charter, a trade agreement that would have established an international currency and that was rejected by the U.S. in 1951.

Of the coming elections, LePen told the Financial Times, ???one [seat] would be a success, two would be a triumph, ten would be a revolution.???

Indeed — and it would no doubt make Hollande and the left smile.


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