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

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.

Valls’ electability in a general election would hinge on his credibility as a social democrat. If he veers too far to the left, true believers may decide there is no point in supporting him anymore over Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the otherwise hopeless far-left candidate, while more moderate center-left voters could defect to Emmanuel Macron, the former economy minister under Valls who is running as an independent. Read more “Valls Jeopardizes His Credibility as a Reformer by Tilting to the Left”

French Socialists Could Make Same Mistake as Britain’s

Surveys suggest the French Socialists could make the same mistake as the British Labour Party and lurch to the left next year, taking themselves out of contention for the presidential and parliamentary elections that due in April and May.

Arnaud Montebourg, a fierce anticapitalist and former economy minister, is neck and neck with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, the center-left candidate, in the polls.

Ifop and Harris Interactive both give Valls 51 percent support in a hypothetical runoff against 49 percent for Montebourg.

Two Ipsos surveys conducted earlier this year put Montebourg ahead.

There is little doubt these two men will prevail in the first voting round. Read more “French Socialists Could Make Same Mistake as Britain’s”

After Hollande Steps Aside, Valls Is the Only Serious Candidate

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.

Hollande squandered what little goodwill he had left when Un président ne devrait pas dire ça… (“A President Should Not Say That…”) appeared last month: a tell-all book in which the outgoing president is quoted disparaging other Socialist Party bigwigs, including his prime minister, Manuel Valls, and foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Both were reportedly outraged by the publication, which dumbfounded the entire French political class. It will only help cement Hollande’s legacy as an inapt and feckless president, who failed to balance competing interest in the ruling Socialist Party and was unable to revitalize the French economy.

Unemployment, at 10 percent, is at the same level as when Hollande took office in 2012. Growth has been lackluster ever since. Read more “After Hollande Steps Aside, Valls Is the Only Serious Candidate”

Hollande Torpedoes Candidacy, Socialists Seek Replacement

French president François Hollande has exhausted what little goodwill he had left in his party by airing his views of other top officials.

There was never any doubt that Hollande — the least popular president in French postwar history — would lose his reelection bid next year. But the Socialist Party was willing to follow him into defeat, owing to the absence of an uncontroversial successor and a political culture of deference.

That has changed since the release of Un président ne devrait pas dire ça… (“A President Should Not Say That…”) earlier this month. Read more “Hollande Torpedoes Candidacy, Socialists Seek Replacement”

Hollande Hopes to Emerge Stronger from Primary

The French Socialists will after all organize a presidential primary for the 2017 election, forcing François Hollande to beat off left-wing challengers before he can pivot to the general election.

It is the first time a sitting Socialist president is forced to prove himself in a primary.

Hollande’s critics invoked standing party rules, which do require a nominating contest.

Except those rules were only written in 2011 to allow for a then-unprecedented open primary on the left. The Socialist Party leadership could have easily thrown out the rulebook from five years ago and made Hollande’s life easier.

The fact that they didn’t says a lot about how weak the president’s position is. Read more “Hollande Hopes to Emerge Stronger from Primary”

French Socialists Enact Labor Reforms by Decree

For the second time in as many years, France’s Socialist Party is enacting labor market reforms by decree, bypassing parliament.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended the unusual move on Tuesday, saying, “the country must move forward.”

Left-wing deputies booed Valls’ speech while hundreds of thousands of students and trade unionists demonstrated against the reforms outside.

But Valls and his boss, President François Hollande, appear convinced the reforms are not only necessary but could help them politically. Read more “French Socialists Enact Labor Reforms by Decree”

Valls More Likely to Succeed Hollande Than Macron

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 “Valls More Likely to Succeed Hollande Than Macron”

Copé, Macron Highlight Timidity of French Parties

French economy minister Emmanuel Macron launched a political movement on Wednesday that he says aims to unite people from the left and the right around a program of reform.

Macron, nominally a Socialist, denied that the movement is meant to propel him into a presidential candidacy for 2017, but French presidential hopefuls do have a tendency to launch political “movements” one of two years out from an election.

Macron’s announcement comes only days after former conservative party secretary Jean-François Copé launched his own bid for the presidency. The rightwinger fell out with his former boss and current party leader, Nicolas Sarkozy, in 2014 over a financial scandal and would now seek to deny him the Republicans’ presidential nomination.

Neither Copé nor Macron is likely to end up as a presidential candidate, let alone president of France. But the noise they’re making speaks volumes about the perceived timidity of their respective party leaders: Sarkozy and his successor, François Hollande. Read more “Copé, Macron Highlight Timidity of French Parties”

France Waters Down Proposed Labor Reforms

French prime minister Manuel Valls unveiled watered-down labor reforms on Monday following resistance from inside his own Socialist Party and its trade union allies to more far-reaching plans.

A proposal to allow small businesses to negotiate longer working hours directly with their workers was dropped as was a cap on the compensation judges can award employees who have been found to be wrongfully dismissed.

Both reforms could have given especially small companies some breathing space when the French economy is barely expanding and unemployment has been stuck at around 10 percent since the Socialists came to power in 2012. Read more “France Waters Down Proposed Labor Reforms”

Labor Reforms Divide France’s Ruling Socialists

Leading Socialist Party lawmakers took to the page of Le Monde on Thursday to condemn labor reforms planned by President François Hollande.

“Enough is enough!” write Martine Aubry and seventeen other leftwingers. They argue that Hollande’s belated attempts to liberalize the labor market will “weaken” France in the long term.

Aubry is the architect of France’s 35-hour workweek and contested the Socialist Party’s presidential nomination in 2011. Hollande bested her at the time with 57 to 43 percent support. Read more “Labor Reforms Divide France’s Ruling Socialists”