Macron Wins Support of Former French Prime Minister Valls

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron visits the commune of Rocamadour, February 27, 2017
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron visits the commune of Rocamadour, February 27, 2017 (Facebook)

Former French prime minister Manuel Valls has thrown his support behind the presidential candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, his former economy minister.

“I don’t think we should take any risk for the republic and so I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” the Spanish-born social democrat said.

Valls sought the presidential nomination of his own Socialist Party but was defeated in January by the far-left Benoît Hamon. His center-left policies are closer to Macron’s, who served together with Valls in François Hollande’s government for two years. The two men cut taxes for employers and loosened labor laws. Read more

French Socialists Nominate Far-Left Hamon for Presidency

French Socialist Party presidential candidates Manuel Valls and Benoît Hamon
French Socialist Party presidential candidates Manuel Valls and Benoît Hamon (Sipa/Alchetron)
  • French Socialists nominated Benoît Hamon, a former education minister, as their presidential candidate on Sunday.
  • Hamon got 58 percent support in a second voting round against 41 percent for his opponent, the former prime minister Manuel Valls.
  • Hamon is to the left of the party. His signature policies are the legalization of marijuana and the introduction of a universal basic income. Read more

Hamon, Valls Push Montebourg Out of French Presidential Contest

French Socialist Party presidential candidates Manuel Valls, Benoît Hamon and Arnaud Montebourg
French Socialist Party presidential candidates Manuel Valls, Benoît Hamon and Arnaud Montebourg (Sipa/Alchetron/PS)
  • Former education minister Benoît Hamon and former prime minister Manuel Valls won the first voting round in the French Socialist Party’s presidential primary on Sunday.
  • Arnaud Montebourg, a former industry minister, finished third. He immediately endorsed his fellow leftist Hamon. Read more

Valls Jeopardizes His Credibility as a Reformer by Tilting to the Left

French prime minister Manuel Valls arrives for a meeting at the Elysée Palace in Paris
French prime minister Manuel Valls arrives for a meeting at the Elysée Palace in Paris (Sipa/Laurent Chamussy)

With two weeks to go until the French Socialists elect their presidential candidate, Manuel Valls is not so subtly tilting to the left.

The former prime minister, who made a name for himself as a reformer, now says neither the 35-hour workweek nor France’s high wealth taxes need to be reformed after all.

Valls’ concessions to the left make short-term political sense. Benoît Hamon and Arnaud Montebourg, two far-left firebrands, are up in the polls. Valls is still the favorite to win the nomination, but only narrowly. Recent surveys suggest he could struggle in a second voting round against either of his opponents.

But he takes a longer-term risk. Read more

After Hollande Steps Aside, Valls Is the Only Serious Candidate

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, President François Hollande and other French Socialist Party leaders listen to a speech in Paris, September 8
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, President François Hollande and other French Socialist Party leaders listen to a speech in Paris, September 8 (PS/Mathieu Delmestre)

François Hollande bowed to reality on Thursday, when the Socialist Party leader announced he would not seek a second term as president of France.

No leader in the history of the Fifth Republic has been less popular than Hollande, whose approval rating hit a 4-percent low in one survey last month. Read more

Valls More Likely to Succeed Hollande Than Macron

French prime minister Manuel Valls is photographed as he arrives for a conference in La Rochelle, August 27, 2015
French prime minister Manuel Valls is photographed as he arrives for a conference in La Rochelle, August 27, 2015 (PS/Mathieu Delmestre)

France’s François Hollande is beset by rivals from inside his left-wing coalition. On the far left, former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg is mulling a presidential bid. On the right of the Socialist Party, Montebourg’s successor, Emmanuel Macron, just launched a “movement” that seems to serve no purpose other than to advance the former investment banker’s political ambitions.

But if Hollande is successfully challenged for the left’s presidential nomination, or decides not to run for reelection in 2017 at all, the man currently serving as his prime minister looks like the safer bet. Read more

Reforms Still Likely to Thwart Valls Presidential Run

French prime minister Manuel Valls appears at a Socialist Party conference in Paris, February 1
French prime minister Manuel Valls appears at a Socialist Party conference in Paris, February 1 (PS/Mathieu Delmestre)

Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, is attempting to unify his party, but the very reforms that make him a divisive figure on the left are still likely to stop him from seeking the Socialists’ presidential nomination.

There is little doubt that Valls would be a stronger contender in 2017 than the incumbent, François Hollande. Polls show he would decisively beat the Front national‘s Marine Le Pen in a theoretical runoff and would come close to defeating Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative former president.

Hollande, by contrast, would lose against both, if he even managed to qualify for the second voting round.

Valls’ problem is his own party. Many on the left see his program of lower business taxes, competition in intercity transport, weaker labor protections and allowing stores to open on more Sundays as a betrayal of the French social compact.

Compromise

Politico reports that Valls is trying to get back into favor with the Socialists, telling a party convention on Sunday that liberalization is not an end in itself but rather a means to advance the “values” of the left.

Once the torchbearer of reform, the prime minister seemed eager to seek compromise between the centrist and left wings of his party. Hence his attempt to describe his past policy as fully in line with the traditional Socialist mantra.

Left-wing voters are ahead of the party. A poll published in Sunday’s Journal du Dimanche showed 35 percent would rather Valls ran in 2017 against 22 percent who want to keep Hollande.

Dilemma

Yet Valls’ reform effort works against him in two ways, according to Politico.

If it pays off, and France finally sees unemployment fall in the fourth year of Hollande’s presidency, the incumbent would be the beneficiary and more likely to stand for a second term.

If, on the other hand, Valls wants to have a chance at preempting another Hollande run, he may want to slow down his program and tack to the left so the economy doesn’t dramatically improve and the party stays united. But that also risks “diluting the identity he has sought to build as a bold reformist,” potentially weakening his appeal to moderates.

In what might be a telling sign, Valls’ government is delaying long-overdue labor reforms by commissioning a study into the matter.

Denial

The Atlantic Sentinel has argued that the Socialists are unlikely to jettison Hollande before the next election, if only because most of them aren’t ready yet to accept the economic reality that Valls represents.

The price will likely be opposition, where the Socialists spent twenty years before Hollande unseated Sarkozy in 2012.