There seems to have been a bit of excitement here about a recent election in the United States, but the forum is open to discussions about other countries as well. France has an election coming up, and interesting things appear to be happening over there.
When I first joined this board over 15 years ago, France was often pointed to as an example of how left-leaning economic policy could succeed. France had and still has high taxes, strong labor unions with government backing, high minimum wage, government control in many sectors, and very strong regulations on almost anything imaginable. When Francois Hollande became President in 2012, he was widely viewed as the standard-bearer for liberalism in Europe, while most other large countries chose more conservative leadership. Many compared him to Obama. He pursued higher taxes and considered at most minor changes to most of France’s regulatory regime.
Today Hollande pulls approval ratings around 4 percent. His economic policies have given France anemic growth, high unemployment, and general failure all around. Meanwhile France has been hit my multiple terrorist attacks and flooded with refugees, and Hollande was unable to deal with either crisis convincingly. All around are countries with conservative government that are doing a lot better economically: Britain, Germany, Switzerland,… Small wonder that French voters are not expected to give Hollande a second term. Instead the two main contenders are:
In the right corner, Marine Le Pen. She’s the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen and inherited his National Front party, which as the liberal media never tire of reminding us, has fascist and neo-Nazi roots. She has moderated the party’s platform, focusing on restricting immigration, leaving the EU, and moderate economic changes.
Also in the right corner, Francois Fillon. He just won the primary for France’s mainstream conservative party, but his platform clearly calls for a break with the past. He is also strongly anti-immigrant, wants serious economic reforms, and is unfriendly towards the EU, though not actually advocating for leaving.
Polls widely suggest that in the open first round in April, Fillon and Le Pen will be the top two finishers, and thus they will go to a run-off election in May. If so, that would be a strong showing for market-oriented economic policy and against immigration, and would leave little for the French left to cheer for.
In the runoff, experts assure us, Le Pen can’t possibly win. The experts also assured us that Trump and Brexit couldn’t possibly win.