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France After 2012

Gabriel Goodliffe
Riccardo Brizzi
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 226
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  • Book Info
    France After 2012
    Book Description:

    In May 2012, French voters rejected the liberalizing policies of Nicolas Sarkozy and elected his opponent, the Socialist Francois Hollande, president. In June 2012, the incumbent president's center-right UMP party was swept out of government in the ensuing parliamentary elections, giving way to a new center-left majority in the National Assembly. This book analyzes the contexts and results of the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections in France. It assesses the legacies of the Sarkozy presidency that informed the 2012 electoral campaigns, scrutinizing his domestic social and economic policies on the one hand and European and foreign policies on the other. In turn, the elections' outcomes are also analyzed from the standpoint of various political parties and other institutional interests in France, and the results are situated within the broader run of French political history. Finally, the book examines the principal challenges facing the Hollande administration and new government of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, and assesses how effectively these have been met during their first year in office.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-549-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Gabriel Goodliffe

    On May 6, 2012 the Socialist Party (PS) candidate François Hollande defeated incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round of the French presidential election to become the Fifth Republic’s seventh president. Claiming just over 18 million ballots compared to the 16.86 million won by his opponent, he garnered 51.64 percent of the vote versus 48.36 percent for the latter. In turn, in the parliamentary elections that followed, the PS and its allies won an absolute majority of 314 seats (out of a total of 577) with parties of the left and center left winning 59 percent of the vote...

  6. Part I. The Presidency

    • Chapter 1 The Fifth Republic and Its Presidents
      (pp. 11-26)
      Jean-François Sirinelli

      When examining contemporary history, the political historian is bound to be confronted with certain methodological issues. Some are related to heuristic considerations: if the history of the present in France has acquired full scientific legitimacy, its practice has not yet become so despite the fact that it shares a number of subjects with the other social sciences, in particular political science. Other epistemological questions also arise. Compared to the other social sciences, it is in the nature of the historical discipline to place subjects in a temporal frame. Its first function is to situate the analysis within a specific timeframe,...

    • Chapter 2 Socialists in the Elysée Palace: From Mitterrand to Hollande
      (pp. 27-41)
      Marco Gervasoni

      The connection between François Hollande and the figure of François Mitterrand is less simple than would appear at first sight. The relationship has traversed a number of stages: from the young Hollande’s more or less direct link to the Elysée in the 1980s, to defense of the departed president’s memory, above all against attacks from within the PS. To French socialism, however, up until Lionel Jospin’s defeat in 2002, Mitterrand was what was once called a “dead dog.” He only began to be exhumed after the shock of 2002, with Hollande being one of the most zealous supporters of his...

    • Chapter 3 The TV-Presidency: From de Gaulle’s “Télécratie” to Hollande’s “Normal Presidency”
      (pp. 42-58)
      Riccardo Brizzi

      In any major election, the experts harp on the crucial role of communications, emphasize how personalized politics has become, point to the growing media consciousness of the public sphere, and stress how much public opinion is conditioned by the media. The 2012 presidential elections were no exception to this iron law, which has underpinned French history since the dawn of the Fifth Republic.

      By the end of a five-year term that was characterized by an extremely mediatized concentration of executive power in the person of Nicolas Sarkozy, the electoral campaign—that played out in a less intense climate of political...

  7. Part II. The Political Parties

    • Chapter 4 The Union for a Popular Movement after Sarkozy
      (pp. 61-73)
      Florence Haegel

      Ten years after its creation, France’s UMP party can truly be said to have changed the partisan right in French politics. Created in the very special circumstances of Jacques Chirac’s victory over Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2002 presidential election runoff , the UMP spent its first ten years as a party of government and only now, since its 2012 defeat in the presidential and parliamentary elections, has it found itself in opposition. At the same time, and in particularly acrimonious circumstances, the party had to choose a new leader after Nicolas Sarkozy stepped down following his electoral defeat.¹ Now,...

    • Chapter 5 The Year of the Rose: The Socialist Victory of 2012
      (pp. 74-87)
      Gérard Grunberg

      After ten years in opposition, t.he French Socialists returned to power in the spring 2012 elections. How is this victory to be explained and interpreted? First, it should be noted that the Socialist victory cannot be credited to the party alone. Since François Mi tt errand’s election in 1981 and his reelection in 1988, no Socialist has won a presidential election. In 2002 the incumbent Socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin, was eliminated from the first round of elections and in 2007 the Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, lost by a large margin to Nicolas Sarkozy, head of the UMP.

      The triumph...

    • Chapter 6 The Pyrrhic Victory of the Radical Left
      (pp. 88-99)
      Philippe Buton

      In the 2002 French presidential election, the highest tally obtained by a candidate politically to the left of the PS was 5.7 percent of the total vote. These votes were for the candidate backed by the Trotskyist organization Lutte Ouvrière, Arlette Laguiller. In 2007 this tally was 4.1 percent, with the highest number of votes received by Olivier Besancenot, the candidate of another Trotskyist organization, the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Communist League). In 2012, however, the highest result obtained by a candidate situated, as per the traditional expression “on the left of the left,” was 11.1 percent of the vote,...

    • Chapter 7 In Search of the Center
      (pp. 100-111)
      Gilles Le Béguec

      For the political center in France, presidential elections follow but do not resemble each other. The only continuity has been that failure has almost always been on the agenda. The only deviation from this trend occurred in 1974, with the victory of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. However, we can discuss ad infinitum whether the founding president of the very moderate Fédération Nationale des Républicains Indépendants (National Federation of Independent Republicans) actually belonged to the centrist family in the sense usually attributed to this adjective.

      In general, this centrist political family has faced the electoral test in a scattered way. There have...

    • Chapter 8 The Resurgence of the Front National
      (pp. 112-130)
      Gabriel Goodliffe

      After suffering its worst electoral results since the early 1980s in the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections in France, the FN reestablished itself as a powerful electoral force in the country in the 2012 national elections. The party’s new leader, Marine Le Pen, achieved a record score of 17.9 percent (versus 10.4 percent in 2007) in the first round of the presidential election, eclipsing the historic record set by her father when he acceded to the second-round runoff in 2002. Meanwhile, the FN garnered 13.6 percent of the vote in the first round of the June 2012 parliamentary election (compared...

  8. Part III. The Electoral Campaign and Hollande’s Challenges

    • Chapter 9 Hollande’s Economic Agenda
      (pp. 133-151)
      Jacques Fayette

      The year 2012 was marked in Europe by stagnation or recession and an unemployment rate of 11.3 percent, but the difficulties faced by France began in the year 2000 with a collapse of industrial production. In 2007, candidate Nicolas Sarkozy believed and maintained that political will alone would allow France to fully recover; in 2012 François Holland held a similar belief. By examining the 2007–12 period we will present the policies of the Sarkozy-Fillon administration, analyze the role of the economy in the 2012 electoral campaign, and assess the policies of the Hollande-Ayrault administration during its first seven months...

    • Chapter 10 Europe in the 2012 French Presidential Election
      (pp. 152-166)
      Renaud Dehousse and Angela Tacea

      Europe has long been absent from French national electoral contests. Given the influence Europe can have on the policies decided by governing elites, it seems legitimate that the candidates to run the country would enlighten voters as to how they would position themselves with respect to the policies of the EU, or even how they envision the evolution of the latter, were they to be elected. Instead, presidential candidates have long preferred to ignore these sorts of questions—perhaps because the latter tend to diminish the role to which they can aspire to play in the national political arena.¹ We...

    • Chapter 11 Hollande and Sarkozy’s Foreign Policy Legacy
      (pp. 167-180)
      Frédéric Charillon

      In a rare move for a president elect of the Fifth Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy chose to devote an important part of his victory speech of May 6, 2007, to foreign policy. In that speech, the new president and successor to Jacques Chirac (1995–2007) heralded sweeping policy departures that extended to the international domain. Addressing France’s European partners, the United States, the countries of the Mediterranean, and Africa, Sarkozy concluded his speech by placing his prospective foreign policy under the banner of morality and human rights.¹ By the same token, the term of office of the new president, whom the...

    • Chapter 12 Immigration and the 2012 Elections in France
      (pp. 181-194)
      Ariane Chebel d’Appollonia

      The 2012 presidential and parliamentary electoral campaign in France did not demur from the cardinal rule of French politics since the emergence of the Front National (FN ) in the mid–1980s: the placing of the questions of immigration and of the integration of immigrants at the center of the political debate. Beyond the traditional left-right cleavage, proposing solutions to the “problems” posed by immigration has become a habitual exercise—to the point of coloring the debate on other political, economic, and social issues. In the 2012 campaign, the positioning of the candidates with respect to the EU, for example,...

  9. Conclusion. Assessing the Hollande Presidency One Year into Office
    (pp. 195-202)
    Riccardo Brizzi

    As candidate to the French presidency, François Hollande quipped that “a five-year term is judged at the beginning and condemned at the end.”¹ He had anticipated even before his election that, given the country’s current situation of crisis, there would be no basking in any honeymoon with the French. Yet no-one foresaw thelune de fiel(a play onlune de mielthe French term for honeymoon, withfielthe word for bile) which, a year after he entered the Elysée, would see the Socialist president recording the lowest popularity ratings ever garnered by a sitting president in the in...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-207)
  11. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 208-209)
  12. Index
    (pp. 210-216)