January 05, 2017
French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
The Socialist primary race is on. The seven candidates are under scrutiny with their programmes and their campaign choices. The French press is also full of who is supporting whom, but the important question is still whether the voter will see in these primaries the election of a potential future president or not. If the Socialists are considered as out of the race already, then what difference does it make who wins?
Manuel Valls still thinks that experience trumps the desire for revolt, writes Cécile Cornudet. His campaign plays up his credentials - he is the only one of the candidate who has been prime minister - and singled out an adversary - Francois Fillon - to carve out an image of the socialist reformer for himself. Compared to his adversaries in the primaries, he is the only one to promote fiscal stability with a deficit not surpassing the 3% limit, though he won’t go as far as targeting a balanced budget.
Other candidates have big spending plans and progressive tax plans. The most radical proposal is the merger of the general social charges (CSG) and the income revenues, as advocated by Vincent Peillon, Benoît Hammon and Arnauld Montebourg. They want the CSG (€90bn in revenues) and the income tax (€75bn) to transform into a strongly progressive tax, though all with different emphases. With the exception of Montebourg, no proposal seems to be counter-financed. L’Opinion warns that the middle class could end up paying the price. A study from 2012 showed that such a fusion could affect 9m taxpayers. After they revolted already under Hollande, they are unlikely to be unimpressed by these sorts of proposals, so the article.
Montebourg just tabled some numbers. His plans would raise expenditures by €24.4bn per year, a sum that may look moderate compared to his earlier ambitions, writes Les Echos. This covers a CSG cut (from 8% to 1%) for lower income households, and his investment projects. He also advocates a supertax on banks to raise €5bn, and would not shy away from nationalising one. He half-jokingly remarked in a conference that Donald Trump stole his method. Montebourg has long been an outspoken advocate of protecting French economic interests and of keeping jobs and companies in the country.
Mediapart traces back the common history of the four major candidates - Valls, Peillon, Hamon, Montebourg. They were the driving force of the new confrontational generation in the mid 1990s, when these four men were considered the new hopefuls in the Socialist party. Since then they were able to rally their forces together only briefly before their egos pulled them apart again. The latter three were part of the current NPS - nouveau parti Socialiste - but it did not last since the men could not agree on a common strategy. And so these four once-promising men now end up competing against each other in a depressing primary that looks more like a settling accounts among those ambitious men who waited too long for their finest hour to arrive.