Fillon is on the ropes, and Macron unveils a flabby agenda.
French presidential candidate François Fillon bills himself as his country’s Margaret Thatcher—ready to bury the statist shibboleths that have punished the French economy. But his chances of implementing a Thatcherite agenda look grim after the Republican nominee faced a preliminary indictment this week over alleged misuse of taxpayer funds. Such a pity.
The French judiciary on Wednesday ordered Mr. Fillon to face allegations that he paid his family members nearly a million euros ($1.06 million) for doing little or no work for more than two decades. The former Prime Minister has apologized, but he denies wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a political “assassination” by leftists in the judiciary. Having vowed earlier to resign the center-right Republicans’ nomination if he faced a formal indictment, Mr. Fillon now says it is up to voters to decide if he should stay or go.
Yet his calls to slash 500,000 civil-service jobs now elicit accusations of hypocrisy, and a recent poll found that three of four voters want him out of the race, including 53% of Republicans. A senior adviser quit the campaign after the preliminary indictment, and other party allies have said they are suspending support for Mr. Fillon. The Republicans are stuck, not least because few serious candidates would want to take ownership of a bleeding campaign. This is especially disappointing because none of the other candidates offers a clear pro-growth path out of France’s doldrums.
That includes Emmanuel Macron, the former investment banker who is running as an independent. With the Fillon implosion, Mr. Macron is betting he can capture centrist voters alarmed by the hard-left Socialist nominee, Benoît Hamon, and the hard-right politics of Marine Le Pen, the current frontrunner.
For months Mr. Macron held off unveiling his agenda but promised to put France “on the move” and stand up for young voters frustrated by red tape and a corrupt political class. The bright spots of his agenda, detailed last week, are a pledge to cut 120,000 government jobs and slash the corporate-tax rate to 25% from 33% over five years. But that’s where his reform mojo ends. The full program he unveiled Thursday would maintain the 35-hour workweek and the retirement age of 62. He would create more taxpayer-funded vocational training, expand jobless insurance and hire 5,000 more teachers. The rest is mostly minor bureaucratic tweaks dressed up with the grand rhetoric that is a Macron signature.
If polls are right—and France is lucky—Mr. Macron would defeat Ms. Le Pen by as many as 10 points in a runoff. But hopes that this year’s election would offer French voters a real reform alternative are increasingly dim.
Response to “France’s Disappointing Reformers”, WSJ, March 2017
When a nation is blessed with democracy and cursed for decapitating their King and Queen their manifest destiny is for sure to be in doubt.
For the sad Republic de France after serial years under socialist near Marxist doctrine and the erosion of their values, eyesight and bearings they have reached the precipice of not only national decline and irrelevance but the edge of surrender of individual liberty and the probable emergence of the new caliphate of the devil of Islam.
A discussion about leadership and their four hapless choices merely confirms these fears.
Yes, François Fillon is the closest to a sane choice yet hindered by traditional Gaullist taboos of the untouchable “Etat” and unfairly riddled for practices that have been understood throughout the 5th Republic and before. Apart from him there is a free fall to insanity. Benoît Hamon has never made any sense, a radical red he would be better off moving to Cuba or Venezuela. As for Mr. Macron, we have the typical vacuous empty headed French; a mediocre non-descript provencal investment banker trying with smoke and mirrors to make a paper machete leftist seem enlightened.
Leaving us with the social nationalist LePen. She too is in fact a radical leftist termed ultra-right nationalist with policies from the bog of failed philosophies hatched in the early 20th century by deranged narcissists preying on the fears, and misguided hopes of the disappointed citizenry.
There is no choice for true good if Fillon fails in his own flames. The insider view, unwritten and unstated likelihood is that LePen could emerge the victor.
If so the thin hope is that the country can be resurrected out of the carnage and ashes that are sure to ensue. Don’t bet on it.
Robert F. Agostinelli
Posted in Robert Agostinelli