France Politics Part I

France Politics 1

The French political situation that emerged from the elections of March 1978 presented, under the guise of parliamentary stability, various symptoms of complication. The governing parties, in fact, which by virtue of the mechanisms of the electoral law possessed a stable majority in the Chamber (286 seats out of 491), had obtained only 50.7% of the seats. Furthermore, the by now traditional rivalry between Giscardians and Gaullists was now aggravated by the substantial numerical equivalence of parliamentary representatives (137 seats against 148). Only the divisions of the left on the subject of a common program protected the majority from too unpleasant political surprises and pushed the government led by R. Barre (in office since April 23) to attempt the path of an opening, however timid, to the Socialist party of France leadership of these.

The Metz congress of the PSF (April 1979), reconfirming the leadership of Mitterrand, however blocked any attempt towards a similar direction, while the internal conflicts of the majority came to express themselves in the rejection of the state budget, on which the Barre government had placed the trust (December 1979). This was the latest manifestation of the difficulties in internal politics that had studded the entire year on a social level, especially around the knot of the demobilization of the steel industry with its aftermath of heavy unrest in Lorraine (February 1979) and Paris (March 1979). The foreign policy framework is different, in which philosophy still played a significant role of presence in French-speaking Africa (deposition of Bokassa in the Central African Empire in September 1979 and, even before that,

According to SHOPPINGPICKS, the internal difficulties in the two-year period 1980-81, especially in the economic field (the inflation rate remained at 13.3% over the two years), however, irremediably worn out the compactness of the majority, so much so that in the presidential elections of May 10, 1981, Mitterrand reported the victory over his direct opponent V. Giscard d’Estaing with 51.8% of the votes against 48.1%. The socialist P. Mauroy therefore formed a government in which ministers from the PSF and left-wing radicals participated, but not from the PCF, starting the country early in the general political elections in June. The mighty leap forward of the PSF (37.5% of the votes in the first round and 270 deputies overall elected after the second round) more than amply compensated for the heavy downsizing of the PCF (16.1% and 44 deputies), while the left-wing radicals also increased their parliamentary representation (now made up of 14 deputies). The unequivocal defeat of the parties of the former majority (RPR – Rassemblement Populaire pour la République – with 20.8% and 84 deputies; UDF – Union de la Démocratie Française – with 19.2% and 64 deputies) allowed the reconfirmation of Mauroy who formed a new government, this time with the participation of 4 ministers of the PCF (23 June 1981) to which the Chamber voted the trust on July 8th.

The government made a drastic economic breakthrough by starting the implementation of the joint program. The ambitious plan envisaged the contextual launch of a policy aimed at supporting the weaker classes (increase in the guaranteed minimum wage, holidays, pensions), to fight against unemployment and inflation. The difficulty of the operation lay in the fact that, in contrast to the economic policies of the main industrialized countries, an attempt was made to achieve the goal of fighting inflation within an expansive policy framework. An integral part of the economic policy was that of nationalizations (which began after a long preparation in February 1982), which affected key sectors of credit and basic industry, especially metallurgy, chemistry, aeronautical and armament construction. In reality, the difficulties on the front of the deficit, the solidity of the franc, the inflation rate imposed a sharp downsizing of the expansionary policy and an iron block on prices and wages, as well as a rigorous monetary tightening. This was not without effect in the elections for the renewal of half the seats of the Department Councils and Municipal Councils (in the context of a reform that saw the transfer of the administrative and financial powers of the prefects to the various local self-government councils), so much so that the ruling parties were penalized in the electoral competition (March 1983). These failures led to the resignation of Mauroy, who was again confirmed in the post by Mitterrand on 23 March. The new ministry, Socialist Parties Unifié (PSU), had to face an increasingly difficult situation economically and increasingly socially deteriorated, directing its choices in a direction that was now clearly restrictive of freezing public recruitment and drastic spending cuts: all measures destined to provoke the harsh criticism of communists. This was the harbinger of growing political difficulties, especially as the previously defeated center-right parties were carrying out a work of reorganization which in the meantime could not be postponed. The most evident expression of this process was the political revival of former president Giscard d’Estaing and the rapprochement between RPR and UDF, which had already been propitiated by the meeting between Giscard himself and J. Chirac on November 24, 1982.

France Politics 1