by Ted Welch
Recently I was discussing Hollande with an English friend who was somewhat critical of him, saying that he hadn't really had much experience: "What has he done?". The media have been attacking Hollande and his government for not having done anything:
They had become used to Sarkozy's mistaken (his view) hyperactive style.
I think the media's encouragement of emphasis on personality is unfortunate (as with Assange), most important is what group he belongs to and what they stand for. Sarkozy made what group he really represented all too clear the night of his election, with the party at Fouquets and his holiday on a billionaire's yacht (see below for contrast with Hollande - his bedroom in Tulle). Even a French President can't do much by himself and must represent the mainstream of his party and their policies.
front-paged by afew
Sarkozy acknowledged, 3 months before the election, that his hyperactive approach had been mistaken, and he should have been a bit more "distant and solemn":
But he was still mistaken in suggesting that a minister should react immediately; ministers too ought to take a strategic view and avoid knee-jerk responses to problems, even if the media are demanding action.
However, if we do focus on individuals, Hollande is not "nul" as Sarkozy said:
It's true that Hollande hasn't any experience of government (except local) - but that's what happens when a party is out of power for some time; however he did run a major party for 11 years (see below).
Major qualifications for the job of president are intelligence and an ability to get on with a wide range of people.
Hollande is clearly a very bright guy (and won the debate with Sarkozy), you don't get into HEC and ENA unless you are very bright. Hollande was also a very young professeur at the prestigious Sciences-Po and a young member of the Cour des Comptes (ENA tudents who come in the top 15 of their year get to choose their first jobs and Cour des Comptes is one of the top choices):
"a quasi-judicial body of the French government charged with conducting financial and legislative audits of most public institutions and some private institutions, including the central Government, national public corporations, social security agencies (since 1950), and public services (since 1976). The Court is essentially a cross between a court of exchequer, comptroller general's office, and auditor general's office in common-law countries." Wikipedia
Pretty good training for running the country's finances.
"That same year, Jospin became the Prime Minister of France, and Hollande won the election for his successor as First Secretary of the French Socialist Party, a position he would hold for eleven years." Wikipedia
Now that alone is to do something (politics is a profession) and running a big Left-wing group like that, prone to factionalism and ideological differences is not easy:
Hollande has had experience at a high level:
"Because of the very strong position of the Socialist Party within the French Government during this period, Hollande's position led some to refer to him the 'Vice Prime Minister '". Hollande would go on to be elected the Mayor of Tulle in 2001, an office he would hold for the next seven years." Ibid
But chance plays its part and he was on the losing side on an important issue: "Hollande's support for the ill-fated "yes" position in the French referendum on the European Constitution caused friction within the party." ibid
A similar thing happened to Villepin, he was seen as likely 2007 presidential candidate, but he tried to introduce the CPE contract:
"During the protests, Villepin was widely perceived as stubborn and arrogant. As a consequence, his popularity rates went down rapidly and he was no longer regarded as a serious contender for the 2007 presidential election." Wikipedia
But Hollande did win the election at Corrèze, remote, yes, but no less a person than Chirac was in power there:
Copé later lied that Hollande was responsible for the growth of spending and the number of civil servants, but fact-checkers showed that this was due to the UMP in previous years and the 2008 budget had been set by them before Hollande took over:
Back to personality; Hollande's personal style is in marked contrast with Sarkozy's Fouquets style, for which Sarkozy struggled to apologise later:
"Nicolas Sarkozy qui bute sur les mots. La séquence est peu habituelle. Jeudi soir, sur France 2, le président candidat est au bord du bégaiement lorsqu'il évoque l'épisode du Fouquet's. 'Si je.... franchement... Mais bien sûr, si c'était à refaire, je ne repartirais pas, reviendrais pas dans ce restaurant puisque ça a été vraiment le le "feuilleton" ', déclare t-il péniblement au 20h de David Pujadas."
Let's remember also that he won the debate with Sarkozy. I watched it with a Parisian friend who said before it that he was apprehensive because Sarkozy is a smart politician. But Hollande clearly won - and improvised (apparently) an impressive anaphora:
We'll now have to see what he and his government can do - they didn't inherit a good situation (like Obama) and have limited options, but it's clear that he and his party are far more likely to do what is good for the majority rather than for the rich, like Arnault, richest man in France, who just happened to be a witness at one of Sarkozy's weddings.
Recently there has been a clamour in the French media that Hollande and his government have done nothing since being in office and Hollande's popularity has plummetted. I think this is ridiculous, it seems as unreasonable as expecting a captain of a cruise liner to turn it in a few metres. As one commentator says:
"Hollande deserves credit for remaining within himself, avoiding blunders, and mostly eschewing cheap effects. To be sure, he has kept campaign promises, some of them costly and of dubious merit, but the bashing would be worse if he hadn't."
Laurent Joffrin points out that, the Right, having complained that Hollande and co were doing nothing, now complain that they're doing things: