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6 May Election Day

IN the year with highest number of elections, today 6 may is the polling day of the year. There are elections in France, Greece, Armenia and 2 votes in Serbia. There are regional elections in Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, which will test the strength of the incumbent chancellor Merkel to win elections before the federal ones next year.

6 May is an important day for Europe as it will show to what extend the family of the European People’s Party  will retain its dominance across the 27 member states. This is paramount for the political set up in Europe and the difficult decisions that are still to be taken to solve the euro crisis. For now, the France-German axis was the engine of the decisions and not least this rested on the centre-right parties that are in power in the big two. Or were.

The odds are high that Nicolas Sarkozy will out of office after today’s vote. Perhaps the French will never forgive him for the extravagant behavior in the first half of his term. Even though he changed his communication and wrote several books over the last year, he still does not behave presidential, i.e. a little like a monarch in l’Elysee.

More importantly however, Sarkozy did not have the winning strategy for the election. He was convincing, he had great speeches and mobilized totally the UMP vote. But he made a major mistake when he hardened his discourse on Europe and adopted anti-immigrant stance that rather made him look too radical for many French voters. It was natural that the current president tries to snatch abig chunk of the vote of Front National (Marine Le Pen won 18% on the first round) However his team of advisors did not realize that the people who voted for the french far-right id so not because of the policies articulated by Le Pen, but out of disappointment with the current political elite. Thus by turning to the far right rethoric Sarkozy alienated the centrist voters. This became evident when a few days ago Francois Bayrou. And will determine the result, expected in about an hour from now.

Francois Holland seems to me a very pragmatic man and I hope his presidency will not be like his campaign. The socialists do not have a great (if any ) economic program. In the debate last Wednesday with Sarkozy the former socialist senator and leader of PS mumbled about his plans how to reduce the deficit and the debt of France. Instead, Holland insisted on creating 60 000 new jobs in the state administration and imposing a 75% tax on the rich. The tax by the way, according to Holland himself is total nonsense fiscally (see interviews from January 2011).

Instead, what the next French president should focus on is primarily creating economic policies, solving the long-term fiscal problems and making labour market as well as budgetary reforms in order to give a boost to the French economy. The state should not be an employer of last resort.

So far Holland seems to me like an old school spend-a-lot socialist and behaves rather like a populist when it comes to the real issues of France- he is compassionate with the worries of the French, bit does not seem well-armed to solve the problems from which they stem. He fails to articulate clear policies except his call for a growth pact (and socialists of his party understand growth mainly as public spending).

But Mr. Holland is a witty man. He has managed to keep away from far-fetching promises. He also succeeded in turning the whole presidential campaign into a referendum for Sarkozy’s tenure. Indeed, the incumbent president was alone against 9 other candidates and was the challenger throughout the whole process with Holland clearly considered more likely to win from the outset.

I hope when elected Mr. Holland gets as pragmatic in his policies as he was during the campaign. He should under no circumstances use his (likely) parliamentary majority – legislative elections are in June- to block the referendum of the Fiscal Compact. This is paramount for the Future of Europe!

France holds a key position between the fiscally rigorous north and the lax on spending south. IF France drops the policies aimed at solving the euro crisis may bring yet another disaster to the EU and its member states.

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