Tuesday, May 08, 2007

French elections

We have now elected our next president. After 12 years of stagnation with a not-so-exciting Jacques Chirac, it was about time.
I voted for Bayrou during the first round, for Royal in the second. I can't really say I was thrilled by this last choice. I now wonder what Sarkozy is up to.
I hope his tough stand against crime (especially the crime committed by dark-skinned youngsters) was mostly talk to attract Le Pen's voters.
The majority of the media sounds excited about the new president. The news coverage here is Sweden was suprisingly high. At least it was much higher than the coverage of Swedish elections in the French media!
Will Sarkozy be able to get his reforms through? Previous unpopular attempts never made it past the street protests. This summer and this fall will decide the future of France. I expect Sarkozy will start cutting public spending, which will draw major protests from the public institutions. If transports are affected in any way, the country will be paralyzed. If the education is touched, students might go down to the streets (see protests against the CPE last year, a law allowing for increased job flexibility for young people).
At that point, I wonder how the rest of the people will react. Those who elected Sarkozy and have high hopes might not look too kindly upon these protests. We might actually have protests in favour of the president.
If I was in his shoes, I am not sure what I would do: Risk a confrontation with trade-unions now, or choose discussion?
The first alternative has a potentially strong positive outcome: brake the back of the powerful unions, allowing for long-needed reforms. If it fails, as it has always been the case so far, not even the smallest reform will go through, leading to more stagnation. The second option, more reasonable, may not achieve the quick results which the people is expecting.
If we look at the past, Chirac tried but failed to pass reforms. The difference today is that Sarkozy (who belongs to the same party) will benefit from a stronger popular support.