Monday, May 7, 2012
France Opts for Socialism
May 7, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
The victory of a socialist president in France is a momentous event not only for France itself but for Europe as well. The French electorates have rejected economic system spawned by a reckless and non-challant president Nicolas Sarkozy. Francois Hollande is the first Socialist to win the French presidency after 31 years since 1981 when Francois Mitterrand defeated a center right politician, President Giscard d'Estaing, to become the first socialist president of France.
The ousted president Sarkozy, in order to address the economic woes of France, postulated to take a somersault against the doctrine of Laissez Faire to which a capitalist Europe has remained wedded all along after the Second World War. The ousted president whose tenure was marked by perpetual turmoil tried to embrace a capitalist France with “austerity and budget discipline” to resuscitate the fledgling economy.
Sarkozy became very unpopular and controversial for frequently changing the parameters of his plans and projections for the French people. He fashioned himself to be an unpredictable show boy with streaks of sexual perversions and scandalous personal life. His keeping France on a conservative course looked out of sync with the imperatives of changing policies in the interests of his own country.
The Socialist Party’s newly elected president of France, Mr. Hollande aims at growth and prosperity instead of fist-tightening. The French voters rejected Sarkozy for the second term because of his whimsical and lewd character and for vacillation on taking vital decisions at a time when France is slipping down as an economic power. Perhaps the French nation wanted a change of face as well and to remove a president who negotiated “fiscal pact" with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that was not entirely in favor of France.
France desperately needed a new leader because of its economic slide-down during the Sarkozy era. Currently France’s unemployment rate is more than 10%; her public spending is 56% of GDP. France’s public debt will hit 90% of GDP this year. In 2012 the country needs to raise 180bn Euros on the bond markets. Next year it needs 200bn.
President Hollande wants to recall French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012. He envisages concluding a new contract of Franco-German partnership. In regard to reenergizing the weakening financial system, he backs the creation of a European rating agency and the separation of lending and investment in banks. His future policies also include reducing the share of nuclear power in electricity generation from 75 to 50% and promotion of renewable energy sources.
The phase of Franco-German partnership with France as a subservient and docile partner seems to be coming to an end. One can hope that president Hollande would relax curbs on the immigrants and unlike Sarkozy would allow them to follow their religious and ethnic obligations and rituals freely and without further curbs.
This roller coaster of a mammoth change in Europe has started from France. The next country falling under its wheels would be Germany and the rest would follow. The phenomenal change of praetorians in France is stunning but was not unpredictable. This change would be a harbinger for similar watershed replacements of conservative guards who were either purposely embarking upon a beaten and decadent path or were shortsighted to the extent of not perceiving the pulsating desire of the European nations to move forward from a closed alley.
There has been a stereotype orthodox religio-political system in vogue all over Europe and more noticeably in France and Germany, the two economically and militarily vibrant nations among the European Union comprising 27states. With their hands tied to go solo and independently to make or change their budgets and let the domestic economy take its own natural flow, the economically strident countries looked in sheer impotency and pathetic helplessness. Their ambitions to expand their socio- economic potential remained halted and bridled by a set of rules and constraints written in the collective bond of the Euro countries.
The European Union has remained stuck up in the grooves of mutual pledges and binding covenants to sail and sink together. Barring creation of a unified common currency Euro and lifting of visa restrictions among the member countries, the rest is a tale of debacles and bickering on the part of countries with vibrant economic systems.
After World War II, the West Germany rose on its own ashes and with the help of the United States carved out a new Germany that became the envy of other European nations with a fast track flourishing economy and reconstruction of the destroyed institutions and business enterprises. The modern Germany was looked upon as a model of rapid and dazzling development in all spheres of national reconstruction within two decades after the Second World War.
France that was the first country to bear the brunt of Nazi Germany’s military onslaught and occupation, also embarked upon a path that brought several commendable laurels of success to its linty of spectacular achievements. It distinguished itself as a nuclear power, built up a robust economy, spawned a democratic order and created a splendid social welfare system for its people. The rebuilding of France and Germany in the aftermath of WWII was made possible by the expatriate work force that arrived in West Germany and France in millions.
It should be noted that in West Germany a huge segment of German population was liquidated during the war. Besides, the colossal fragmentation and disintegration of families was set in motion. During that period, the Germans went into a spell of national despondency and depression. Not only that, but there was a serious and huge dearth of manpower for reconstruction of nation building projects such as highways, bridges, railways, industrial units, educational institutions, hospitals and restoration of ruined infrastructure.
Unfortunately thereafter, the religious and national prejudices were fueled and fanned against the alien settlers by the religious right and ultra conservative rabble rousers. While the Christianity was extolled, there surfaced a pervasive disenchantment for the immigrant workers whose majority came from Turkey, a war time ally of Germany.
Concurrently, Europe that was in the lead with the development of latest technologies for a few decades subsequently found itself in a tough competition from the rest of world where the modern scientific inventions and development of technologies also picked up momentum. China, Japan, Singapore the entire Far East and India from the Central Asia ran neck and neck with the Europe and even the United States.
While United States is blessed with inexhaustible economic and natural resources, vast land, free enterprise and liberty to excel, European countries are smaller in size, meager in resources and bedeviled by a simmering race with each other for economic uplift and prosperity.
With the advent of a socialist party president, France may exercise a great deal of economic freedom within the framework of the European Union. He would want to renegotiate the deal agreed by the 27 countries of the euro zone incorporating strict limits on spending. But in response the female German Chancellor Merkel has categorically stated that it cannot be renegotiated.
One might witness in the coming time, a war of wits between an ultra conservative German chancellor and a newly inducted liberal socialist French president. It might be manifest sooner than later, if they would be able to reach some kind of a quid-pro-quo for a smooth sailing between themselves, to maintain euro’s credibility and save the union from disintegrating. If not European Union might, practically, fritter away.