French politics

Hollande – Jospin, same destiny?

François Hollande and Lionel Jospin, France's PM from 1997 to 2002 during the 2012 presidential election at Toulouse (south-west), the 3rd of May

François Hollande and Lionel Jospin, France’s PM from 1997 to 2002 during the 2012 presidential election at Toulouse (south-west), the 3rd of May

Surfing on the Le Monde website, I began to read the following article.

Philippe Bas, former secretary general of the French Republic Presidency, former minister and current UMP senator, deals with the François Hollande’s current strategy and does not hesitate to compare with former French Prime minister Lionel Jospin’s political destiny. According to the ex-minster, the former PS leader was a victim of his own ruling majority, the “Plural left” (Gauche plurielle) which exploded during the 2002 presidential election but also a wimp and unclear political strategy who finally disappointed the popular electorate who abstained or voted massively for Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far right Front national leader at the first round.

Fifteen years after, the story is taking place again according to Philippe Bas considering the François Hollande’s policy is disappointing more and more French people, if we refer opinion polls. What is more, the ruling majority supporting the French leader seems to be less and less disciplined especially within the Senate where the Front de gauche, the Greens and even the Radicals sometimes are in rebellion, weakening the thin progressive majority the French left gets, some legislative texts being voted thanks to the support of the right and the centre only, according to Bas. For him, François Hollande might experience the same political destiny than Lionel Jospin, which might make the total failure of the social-democratic strategy official.

Although Philippe Bas’ analysis is relevant, some nuances should be put forward.

Contrary to Lionel Jospin, François Hollande has a quite limited room for manoeuvre insofar as he has to act and give concrete and tangible results in the current context of crisis. After ten years of conservative policies in which five years of Sarkozy who deeply questioned the French economy and society bearings, the current French leader strategy is rather focused on public deficits reducing to get the markets trust back. This a budgetary orthodoxy policy clearly assumed by François Hollande who even drew its principles during his famous speech of Le Bourget during the 2012 election.


This strategy may be explained and is imposed by the reality of the Eurozone which did not exist yet between 1997 and 2002 when Lionel Jospin was head of the French government. With more and more interdependent economies, the French president knows he has to avoid any contagion, which supposes to work in discussion with the other European partners, whatever agreements and deals hard to accept for some people in France, especially with the French left. Thus, the globalization and Eurozone issue is taken into account by François Hollande forcing him to adjust his strategy and policy regarding the evolution and the health of the European single currency.

Eventually, François Hollande and Lionel Jospin consider the practice of power and the relations with the other French left parties differently. In 2002, the Plural Left divided itself in the perspective of the presidential election, any member of the coalition having its own candidate and defending its own political project for France but during the Lionel Jospin mandate, they remained united because they were part of the government and led or supported a same political strategy. In 2013, the other French left movements are looking for more being independent from or challenging the French Socialist Party. This is the case for the French Ecologists or the Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Front de gauche which has criticised the government strategy since the beginning of the legislature. Nonetheless and compared with Lionel Jospin, François Hollande is not dependant to a plural left majority to lead his policy, in the condition he manages to discipline his own socialist troops.

1211423Compared with the former Prime minister, François Hollande has more time to improve the situation, betting on patience to get the first results of his economic and social strategy. This is a risky challenge but which quite draws François Hollande’s personality and the way he considers politics. If Lionel Jospin could be disturbed by bad polls because of the 2012 presidential election and compared with a Jacques Chirac politically protected thanks to the Cohabitation, François Hollande does not experience this situation and still can shape his strategy or more affirm it, waiting for concrete results. In other words, making a parallel between Lionel Jospin and François Hollande, as Philippe Bas does, is quite excessive (although it has relevance) insofar as contrary to the ex-Prime minister François Hollande seems to assume a realistic and more pragmatic policy, a political strategy he is imposing without fear thanks to the French Socialist Party and its absolute majority at the National Assembly, not being forced to make concessions to his partners… if he wished!