François Hollande won the first round of balloting in the French presidential election yesterday, and faces incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in a runoff Sunday after next. Polling shows that Hollande is favored to win:
Three French polls conducted Sunday evening as results came in predicted Hollande would win the May 6 runoff by 8 to 12 percentage points. Ipsos, CSA and IFOP said economic worries drove many voters.
Americans should be rooting for Sarkozy, explains Pierpaolo Barbieri at The New Republic:
Hollande… is ultimately hostage to an unreformed Socialist Party: With France’s powerful and obstinate unions overrepresented in the party ranks, the Socialists have been consistently against necessary economic reform. Predictably, Hollande says he is eager to bring back the 35-hour week and roll back pension changes at a time when the whole region—and arguably the whole world—is swimming in the opposite direction. His proposal for a 75 percent marginal tax rate would be laughable, if it hadn’t been offered in earnest.
After arguing that Hollande could cause a rift with Germany that threatens the Eurozone (and by extention the global economy), Barbieri adds:
In other international affairs, there’s little to look forward to from a President Hollande. He has hinted at a decreased role in NATO and a more critical stance toward America. In other words, Washington can expect an unwelcome return to the Jacques Chirac years. (It should come as no surprise that Chirac is said to be casting his vote for the Socialist.)
Not to invoke the “even the liberal New Republic…” cliché, but it does say something about the state of French politics that so much of Barbieri’s critique would be as much at home in a conservative publication as it is in the center-left TNR. This item by Brad Plumer gives a flavor of how far left France tilts; the Gaullist Sarkozy would scarcely be center-right by American standards, and the “far right” party led by Marine Le Pen — who made a big splash yesterday by winning nearly 20% of the vote — is, like most European nationalist parties, bitterly hostile to the free market.
Barbieri argues that an upset by Sarkozy is not impossible. Let’s hope so.