Well, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French presidential candidate for the ruling UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) has won the 2007 French Presidential elections, defeating the Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal. The election results are 53.06% for Sarkozy and 46.94% for Royal with a voter turnout of 85%.
I found it strange throughout the run-up to this poll that the news-media was on the one hand saying that this election provided the French with a clear choice between the politics of the Left and the Right, while at the same time comparing Sarkozy to Margaret Thatcher and Royal to Tony Blair. From reading the two platforms I would have to agree with the general comparison of Sarkozy-Thatcher and Royal-Blair, but this to me makes the argument of a clear choice between Left and Right a bit of a farce.
The difference between Royal and Sarkozy was not one of political fundamentals but one of tactics. Neither one of them disputed the need for economic reform for France in order to make it more flexible, more capitalist friendly. Essentially both argue for the need to streamline the state budget, reduce the civil service, privatise the public sphere, make serious reforms (cuts) to the social welfare provisions and encourage low wages to make France ‘more competitive.’ The differences really were only in how to implement these changes, with Royal’s camp advocating a ‘gentle as she goes’ course while Sarkozy represented the interests of a more ‘shock-therapy’ tactics. The interests supporting Royal are concerned that Sarkozy’s more militant confrontational style reforms would lead to an escalation of workers resistance in the form of mass strikes and a potential for open revolution. The interests behind Sarkozy feel that it is neccessary to dismantle the power of organised labour quickly and decisively.
Reading the Economist’s article on Sarkozy’s victory (http://www.economist.com/daily/news/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9135582&top_story=1) one sees that amongst his first reforms involve the implementation of scab labour in the face of strikes, breaking the power of the main French unions, and some Dickensian welfare reforms. With his ‘mandate for change’ one imagines he will try to move quickly to break the power of organised labour before labour can mobilise against him.
With even the Economist prediciting Sarkozy’s reforms will bring about strikes and mass protests in the coming period, it would appear that France is in for some serious escalation of class warfare moving from parliament into the streets. One imagines that with the fortieth anniversary of the 1968 Paris uprising (in similar conditions, with a Middle Eastern Vietname to boot) may very will see the development of revolutionary conditions in France. Due to France’s importance within Europe, along with the general situation in Germany since the ascendance of Merkel, the ramifications of this will be significant.
For Bermuda, it remains to be seen what the direct impact of Sarkozy’s election will be, but it is entirely possible that Sarkozy’s reforms will see changes to the European Unions position on overseas financial centres, especially those nominally under EU jurisdiction, as Bermuda and the Cayman’s are as overseas territories of the UK. This may be beneficial for Bermuda, or it may seriously threaten our international business sector which will of course have an impact on Bermuda’s economy, no doubt seeing a rise in the popularity of independence. Should mass protests and general strikes grow into a revoltionary situation in France and by extension the EU, along with the ongoing developments in Latin America (especially Venezuala and Mexico at the moment), and the situation in the US, Bermuda could be in for some interesting times.
There may even be some Bermudians who will look at the victories of the UBP’s sister parties in the Bahamas (the FNM) and France (UMP), as well as the UK Conservatives in the local elections there as an indication of a trend to be followed in Bermuda’s upcoming election. Looking at the two Parties though, the question would be which is more in line with Sarkozy and which with Royal, and are things as clearcut as making such comparisons?
One further note is that it is quite true that Royal is the French equivalent of Blair for the French Socialist Party (the sister party of UK Labour), and with the French parliamentary elections due shortly, it is likely that under Royal’s leadership we will see the ‘modernisation’ of the French Socialist Party as it becomes in form what it already was in substance as seen in the revisionism of Mitterand and Jospin, a Blairite Third Way ‘New Labour’ Socialist Party.