European elections fallout: “reorientating Europe” to better ensure the government’s policy continuity.
In the wake of the debacle of the municipal elections, now took place the debacle of the European elections—that is to say: a massive 59.37% abstention rate, an historically low vote in favor of the PS, an unprecedented victory for the FN, about twenty additional Eurosceptic French MPs sitting at the European Parliament – next to the two of the least committed French MPs et the EP—and in Strasbourg and Brussels a reinforced Europhobic coalition.
What is the government’s response to this new disavowal? “New tax cuts are necessary.”
PM Manuel Valls was explaining this morning on RTL radio that “taxes had become unbearable for the working and middle classes”. A few weeks after the municipal elections defeat, he mentioned also “650000 household exit out of the tax paying household group”. In the face of citizen’s declining confidence in political institutions and politics, of identity based tensions, and of loosening of the social compact, could the executive be trying to trade votes of support for income tax receipts. Whereas the left’s traditional target voters group is gone elsewhere and the it has lost the working class vote, the UMP party risks imploding, the FN prepares for the 2017 elections the executive office primary response is to announce new fiscal measures. Although tax policy is one of the few levies the government has a grip on at the moment, the government’s call for tax cuts betrays the executive’s will to stay the political course, especially given that fiscal measures offering tax rebates to some household has already been announced in May.
There is no denying Manuel Valls is trying to mark the moment: he acknowledged Sunday evening the dramatic nature of events which he qualified as “a shock”, “an earthquake” and, according to the Elysée Palace’s press release, that “lessons must be drawn” from this “major event”. Crisis meetings are multiplying today at the Elysée and at the PM’s seat Matignon – and they are all but symbolic, without a doubt, for the scope of the defeat was widely expected.
Whereas calls for policy changes are mounting, the head of the government already reaffirmed that his strategy remains unchanged and that he rejects the possibility of dissolving the national Assembly. In short: out questioning the political line; in statements strongly backing it up. Manuel Valls evoked “the emergency of [restoring] confidence”, and he repeats that “the policy we are conducting has the goal to be efficient”. The talking points used by ministers that went on political talk shows were focusing on the need to change the course politically, but only at the European level for the poll was for European elections. At the national level continuity is thus the watchword, as evidenced by Laurent Fabius: “at the French level, the only possible responses lie in action and results”. Even the former members of the government, Jean Marc Ayrault and Pierre Moscovici supported on twitter the somewhat dialectical idea of continuity at the national level combined with change at the European level: “ after such a shock, the absolute priority : Europe must change”, “now, the French have to be reconciled with Europe, by refocusing it on growth and employment”.
Is Europe the scapegoat of the government policies’ failure? Is Europe guilty of harming its member states? That is, for now, the tone of the messages delivered by the ruling national majority. The rhetoric deployed in their line of defense is close to that of the FN, even though the FN uses a more offensive language with calls for an exit out of the euro, and even out of the EU, whereas the PS merely calls for a modification of Europe’s policies… Such a “reorientation” could become the central point of François Hollande’s upcoming speaking engagements, tonight during the 20h news show or tomorrow Tuesday during the press conference planned in Brussels after the meeting of European heads of state. François Hollande making an announcement would be the sign of his firm and unconditional will to maintain his policy stance at the national level. At the same time an announcement could be summed up by a single objective: to minimize the executive branch’s responsibility in this new electoral debacle, and thus back its policy continuity stance!