Thursday, February 15, 2007

Royal has economic nosedive

Even if Segolene Royal's policy speech injected some small bit of life into her withering campaign, its effects have been quickly erased today.

First the Financial Times ran a story which included French businessmen warning of a massive exodus of finance and biotechnology if Royal is elected and carries out her proposed plans.

“If Ségolène Royal wins, we will go back to the situation we had with Mitterrand between 1981 and 1983. But it would be three-times worse,” said the chairman of one CAC 40 company, referring to François Mitterrand, the last leftwing president of France. Philippe Pouletty, honorary chairman of France Biotech, the biotechnology association, said: “If the Socialists were elected and implemented their pre-election policies, a lot of people would say enough is enough and move abroad, just coming back to France for holidays.”

Then just yesterday, the Socialist's chief of economic policy, Eric Besson, resigned after getting in an argument with party head Francois Hollande. Royal had not explained the financial costs of her 100 point manifesto this past Sunday, and when Besson gave the figure of 35 billion extra euros per year, Hollande confronted him. Apparently Besson "resigned on the spot complaining about disorganisation and incoherence in the campaign."

Mr Besson’s departure was a sign “at best of tensions in Royal’s team, at worst of persistent malfunctions in the co-ordination of her campaign,” said Libération, which supports Ms Royal and had seen her Sunday speech as her redemption. In another fumble this week, the campaign retracted an article under Ms Royal’s name which it had supplied to Temoignage Chretien magazine. The piece, which was scathing about President Chirac’s highly personal conduct of relations with Africa, had not been “authorised” by the candidate, her campaign said.

This does not mean that Royal should be given up on. According to one political analyst, what she will need to do is articulate a more compelling vision that can compete with Sarkozy's simple entrepreneurial message.

Jean-Daniel Lévy, of the CSA institute, said the French had viewed Ms Royal’s manifesto speech as a catalogue of left-wing promises rather than a vision. Voters have a stronger understanding of Mr Sarkozy’s entrepreneurial vision of a France in which “you work more to earn more”.

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