Socialists face tough questions after three months in power
France’s ruling Socialists will have to explain their failure to deliver on election promises to the party rank and file at their annual summer school in the west-coast town of La Rochelle this weekend. President François Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault both saw their poll ratings drop below 50 per cent for the first time since the election on Friday.
Three months after they completed a clean sweep of both houses of parliament and the presidency, the Socialists are already facing accusations that they have broken promises made during Hollande’s election campaign.
It has been a summer of disappointments for the left:
No wonder former hard left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon has seized the chance to lay into the government, last week describing the first 100 days of Hollande’s presidency as “next to nothing”.
Hoping to capitalise on the disappointment, he has since then appealed to the Socialist Party’s left wing to come over to his Left Front alliance with the Communist Party.
The right-wing opposition has also sought to make political hay from the govenrment’s discomfort.
For the moment claims by the main right-wing party, the UMP, that the Socialists are demoralising “job creators” with tax rises for the rich and outdated labour laws carry little conviction. They were running the country just a few months ago, the Socialists can point out, and, in any case, the economic crisis is worldwide and particularly bad in Europe.
The government’s defence is that the economy is in even worse shape than it thought. It had counted on a growth rate of 1.2 per cent in 2013. The country is struggling to keep out of recession at the moment and economists now predict growth of between 0.5 and 0.8 per cent next year.
But the honeymoon is almost over, if the latest opinion poll for Les Echos newspaper is to be believed.
It shows the number of people who believe Hollande can tackle the country’s problems down five per cent to 49 per cent, while Ayrault drops four per cent to reach the same level.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy was at 55 per cent in the August after his election in 2007. He went on to drop below 50 per cent in January 2008 … and to lose the poll that really counts, the 2012 presidential election.
One Socialist Party bigwig who won't be at the summer school is Ségolène Royal, failed presidential candidate in 2007 and Hollande's former partner.
The venure has bitter memories for her. She failed to win the parliamentary seat in this year's National Assembly election because a discgruntled party member, Olivier Falorni, refused to stand down in her favour and won.
Royal, who had been promised the post of parliamentary Speaker, did manage to put in an appearance at the EELV summer school this week before heading for South Africa where she will represent her party at the almost-moribund Socialist International, of which she is a vice-president.