France Decides, but the Future Remains Unclear
Professor Robert Tombs
Friday 22nd April 2012: This week’s blog is on the French Elections and comes to you from Prof. Robert Tombs, Professor of French History at Cambridge and a Fellow of St John’s College.
François Hollande, as expected, has become the second socialist president of the Fifth Republic, by a fairly narrow margin. He was not the Left’s first choice: that would have been Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Hollande’s victory is due to a considerable extent to a visceral personal dislike of Nicolas Sarkozy among the voters,
including among Right-wing voters attracted to the Front National and who abstained in the second round.
More positively, Hollande brings an image of decency and dignity, but also a reputation for indecisiveness. He has let it be known that he is a moderate, but to stand consciously on a platform more extreme that he really intends – if that is what he has done – is dangerous in a time of crisis. He has raised expectations that will not be satisfied by a few gestures and a face-saving compromise with Mrs Merkel. He will be expected by his followers to lead a pan-European rebellion against ‘austerity’. It is unclear whether his personal victory can be reproduced by the Socialist Party at the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
In short, the presidential result has decided very little. The future is unclear and worrying for France and the Eurozone, and with potential repercussions on British politics too.
*Robert Tombs is author of Politeia’s Lessons from History: Freedom, Aspiration and the New Curriculum.