Via Meadia extends our heartiest symapthies to French President Francois Hollande on the occasion of his apparent victory in the first round of France’s legislative elections, where the left is well on its way to gaining a clear legislative majority. We also extend our condolences to world leaders ranging from Angela Merkel to Barack Obama; France is about to be come a much scrappier and more difficult partner.The problem is that if the Socialists do win the expected majority of seats in Sunday’s runoff round of elections, the president will be under immense pressure to deliver on his many campaign promises. Without a majority, Hollande could simply shrug and blame the opposition for impeding his desired social agenda. With a majority, he has to govern, and given his platform and the views of his supporters, that isn’t going to be easy.Hollande was elected on the time honored platform of “More!” but his Treasury officials will tell him that what he has to offer is “Less.” With the world’s bond markets in their current nervous state and France’s leading role in Europe almost entirely dependent on the strength of its credit rating, Hollande cannot spend money like a drunken socialist on shore leave; he will have to watch the pennies and cut his costs just like a conservative.He will find a few high profile, mostly symbolic and cheap victories here and there: spending programs that look big but are really cheap; headline taxes on the evil rich that don’t raise much money but make the left feel good. But much of what he can offer will be symbols, and to the chagrin of his European partners, much of the symbolism that he can evoke will be in the realm of foreign policy.Ostentatious quarrels with les Allemands, les Anglais, and les Américains are cheap and reliable crowd pleasers. (One notes that Mr. Cameron and Frau Merkel both threw their support behind Sarkozy in the French presidential election. They can now expect M. Hollande to reward their political acumen with all the warmth and admiration they deserve.) NATO has long been a bête noire of both the left and the right in France. So has Israel.The concrete need to cooperate with Germany will probably spare Chancellor Merkel some though not all of the worst irritations to be expected from the Hollande presidency, but no such considerations will affect France’s relations with the UK and the United States. The usual fireworks in Franco-American relations were mostly dormant when Nicholas Sarkozy occupied the Élysée. With Hollande now in power, things are likely to change. President Obama may be hoping that as a man of the left he will be able to build an effective partnership with the new French leadership, but Hollande’s political calculations at home point toward just the opposite result.
Be Careful What You Wish for, Monsieur Hollande
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