French politics

Austerity, a political weapon

The French PM, François Fillon

Saving the AAA grade. This is the objective fixed by the Prime François Fillon via a new austerity plan aimed to save near eight billion euro for 2012.

A plan with important and large budget cuts in the services State, social aids, increasing taxes (as VAT and a new 7% VAT on books, culture or transportations), President and members of government wages freezes and an implementation of the recent reform on the pensions (voted in 2010) for 2017 instead of 2018.

These measures were strongly criticized by the opposition and the Parti socialiste mainly, François Hollande, candidate for the presidential election, considering this plan as unfair and fiddled for a large majority of French people, the most modest mainly.

It is needed to insist on the fact the debt is going to be a burning and central issue for the incoming election. These issues will be important and in the heart of the debate, they won’t be able to be disregarded or dealt without any serious. In other words, the austerity is imposing itself less as an economic constrain but more as a political weapon.

A weapon used by the ruling party and the opposition both, in the heart of their respective strategy for 2012. For the firsts, it is needed to show the government is responsible and makes hard but important decisions, in spite of all. A way for the ruling party to show it can be credible, failing a programme. In other terms, austerity is used as electoral argument in a context dominated by the crisis.

This is the same strategy used by the French left and by François Hollande who axes his credibility on the debt issue and insists on the budget equilibrium return for 2017. A political argument to seduce a part of the electorate – from the centre or even within the moderate-right – who is still wondering on the abilities of the former Parti socialiste leader to manage the budget policy and reduce the deficit drastically.

The austerity policy is used as a political weapon by the two political camps to criticize and discredit the other. Thus, the recent François Fillon introduction is not really accidental insofar as the objective is to reply to the socialist candidate’s strategy who wishes to show as a responsible leader in comparison with a right which increased the debt and doesn’t respect his Europeans engagements within the Eurozone anymore. It’s fair enough and Nicolas Sarkozy knows it very well. Nonetheless, nobody is really convinced and I don’t really think it will be enough to reinforce his weak presidential outcome.