Opinion

Paul Taylor

French will resist reform till things get worse

Paul Taylor
Apr 30, 2012 09:49 UTC

PARIS (Reuters) – “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” General Charles de Gaulle famously asked.

His distant successor as president of France, who will be elected on Sunday for five years, faces the same puzzle of how to reform a perennially rebellious nation to meet the economic challenges of the 21st century.

Conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy set out with great energy in 2007 to shake things up but ran out of steam after loosening the 35-hour work week and raising the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60 in the face of massive resistance.

His most recent move has been to reduce labour costs by cutting social insurance charges on payrolls and raising value-added tax on goods and services instead.

Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande, hot favourite to sweep Sarkozy from office in Sunday’s decisive runoff, says he will reverse that switch and sounds disinclined to even try the structural economic reforms advocated by many economists and the European Union.

Analysis: French will resist reform till things get worse

Paul Taylor
Apr 30, 2012 06:07 UTC

PARIS (Reuters) – “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” General Charles de Gaulle famously asked.

His distant successor as president of France, who will be elected on Sunday for five years, faces the same puzzle of how to reform a perennially rebellious nation to meet the economic challenges of the 21st century.

Conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy set out with great energy in 2007 to shake things up but ran out of steam after loosening the 35-hour work week and raising the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60 in the face of massive resistance.

Analysis: France’s Hollande plays president, Sarkozy insurgent

Paul Taylor
Apr 26, 2012 13:29 UTC

PARIS (Reuters) – To watch them perform, you would think Francois Hollande was already France’s president and Nicolas Sarkozy was an insurgent frantically battling to dislodge him.

Conventional roles have been reversed in the final 10 days of a marathon election campaign in Europe’s number two economy, a nuclear power and U.N. Security Council member – greatly to the benefit of Hollande, the Socialist challenger.

The conservative Sarkozy, a hyperactive player on the global and European stage for the last five years, is racing around the country frenetically, cajoling far-right voters and escalating a negative campaign against his Socialist opponent.

Populist surge threatens euro zone consensus

Paul Taylor
Apr 24, 2012 10:45 UTC

PARIS (Reuters) – A surge of support for Eurosceptic, anti-immigration populists in the euro zone threatens to upend the mainstream political consensus in favour of austerity and budget discipline.

The prospect of ratifying and implementing a German-driven treaty to enforce European Union budget rules more strictly is looking less certain, just as Europe may be about to lose the dominant “Merkozy” leadership tandem that negotiated it.

Sunday’s shock French presidential election first round, in which far-right anti-euro crusader Marine Le Pen scored nearly 18 percent and anti-establishment rebels jointly secured more than a third of the vote, highlighted a wider European trend.

Analysis: Populist surge threatens euro zone consensus

Paul Taylor
Apr 23, 2012 15:57 UTC

PARIS (Reuters) – A surge of support for Eurosceptic, anti-immigration populists in the euro zone threatens to upend the mainstream political consensus in favor of austerity and budget discipline.

The prospect of ratifying and implementing a German-driven treaty to enforce European Union budget rules more strictly is looking less certain, just as Europe may be about to lose the dominant “Merkozy” leadership tandem that negotiated it.

Sunday’s shock French presidential election first round, in which far-right anti-euro crusader Marine Le Pen scored nearly 18 percent and anti-establishment rebels jointly secured more than a third of the vote, highlighted a wider European trend.

Le Pen voters to arbitrate Hollande-Sarkozy duel

Paul Taylor
Apr 23, 2012 00:41 UTC

PARIS (Reuters) – Far-right voters may decide who becomes France’s next president after anti-immigration crusader Marine Le Pen’s record first-round score jolted the race between Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande and incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.

The centre-left Hollande narrowly beat the conservative Sarkozy in Sunday’s 10-candidate first round by 28.6 percent to 27.1 percent, the Interior Ministry said with 99 percent of votes counted, but Le Pen stole the show by surging to 18.0 percent, the biggest result for a far-right candidate.

Her breakthrough mirrored advances by anti-establishment Euroskeptical populists from Amsterdam and Vienna to Helsinki and Athens as anger over austerity, unemployment and bailout fatigue deepen due to the euro zone’s grinding debt crisis.

Hollande edges Sarkozy in French vote, Le Pen surges

Paul Taylor
Apr 22, 2012 21:27 UTC

PARIS (Reuters) – Far-rightist Marine Le Pen threw France’s presidential race wide open on Sunday by polling nearly 19 percent in the first round – votes that may tip a runoff between Socialist favorite Francois Hollande and conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Hollande led Sarkozy by 28.2 percent to 27.0 percent with more than four fifths of votes counted, the Interior Ministry said, meaning the two will meet head-to-head in a decider on May 6 that may be closer than pundits had been expected.

Le Pen’s record score of 18.6 percent was the sensation of the night, beating her father’s 2002 result and outpolling hard leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon in fourth place on 10.9 percent. Centrist Francois Bayrou finished fifth on 9.2 percent.

Sarkozy’s last best hopes to get off the ropes

Paul Taylor
Apr 19, 2012 08:28 UTC

PARIS (Reuters) – Behind on points, conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s last best hopes of re-election are landing a knockout punch in the sole television debate or an eleventh-hour alliance with a popular centrist.

No president in French history has come back to win after trailing as far behind his opponent in the opinion polls as Sarkozy does now to Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, political scientist Dominique Reynie said.

But veteran analysts are not writing him off just yet.

“It’s hard to see what could reverse the trend, but there are a few elements,” said Pascal Perrineau, director of the Centre for the Study of French Political Life (CEVIPOF) at the Sciences-Po school in Paris, citing lingering doubts among voters about whether Hollande has the stature and the national security credentials to be president.

Analysis: Sarkozy’s last best hopes to get off the ropes

Paul Taylor
Apr 19, 2012 08:06 UTC

PARIS (Reuters) – Behind on points, conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s last best hopes of re-election are landing a knockout punch in the sole television debate or an eleventh-hour alliance with a popular centrist.

No president in French history has come back to win after trailing as far behind his opponent in the opinion polls as Sarkozy does now to Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, political scientist Dominique Reynie said.

But veteran analysts are not writing him off just yet.

“It’s hard to see what could reverse the trend, but there are a few elements,” said Pascal Perrineau, director of the Centre for the Study of French Political Life (CEVIPOF) at the Sciences-Po school in Paris, citing lingering doubts among voters about whether Hollande has the stature and the national security credentials to be president.

No simple answer to EU growth vs austerity conundrum

Paul Taylor
Apr 16, 2012 09:53 UTC

PARIS (Reuters) – Fierce debate is growing in Europe over whether austerity or growth offers the best strategy to overcome the continent’s sovereign debt crisis. As if it were that simple.

As the euro zone hovers on the brink of its second recession in three years, the battle launched in academic journals, blogs and the financial press has spread to the hustings in France, Greece and soon in EU economic powerhouse Germany too.

“Europe can’t cut and grow,” Sony Kapoor, head of the Re-Define think-tank, and Peter Bofinger, a member of the German Council of Economic Advisers, said in an article before European Union leaders adopted a budget discipline pact last month.

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