Monday, June 18, 2007

Sarkozy's Triumph Is Complete

The party of the new French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has won the country's parliamentary elections. The margin of victory wasn't the crushing landslide some polls had predicted, but it was comfortable enough. The only setback was the stunning defeat in Bordeaux of senior minister and former PM Alain Juppe, bringing a remarkably swift end to what had already been a pretty remarkable political comeback. His experience will be missed in the new administration, but really it's no big deal.

There are two main reasons why Sarkozy can smile. The first is that this parliamentary victory re-enforces his own personal triumph in the presidential election - and gives him a clear mandate to push through his agenda of reforms. Soon, the infamous 35-hour week will be gone, and French people will be doing longer hours, presumably for a few extra bob each. The voters clearly are happy with this idea. Everyone seems to realise it's the best way of dragging France out of its comfort zone, and ensuring it can compete more strongly with other economies around the world.

Then there's the you-couldn't-make-it-up chaos enveloping the beaten Socialists. The party's two main figures, leader Francois Hollande, and the defeated presidential candidate Segolene Royal, have announced their long-standing personal relationship (they have four kids) is over. Apparently, he had an affair. Now, Royal wants to take over the party leadership from her ex, although he doesn't want to step down until next year. It's totally bizarre, but there is a serious choice for the Socialists to make. Royal demonstrated during the campaign her instincts are to take the party more to the centre, while many veteran figures would much rather drag it back to the far left following such a defeat. Royal's way is the only way her party can get back into power, and her campaign for the party's leadership may prove to be just as significant as the one she fought for the presidency.

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