Sunday, March 5, 2017

Economic doldrums and Islam are making sure it won’t matter who is elected President Hollande’s successor.

In April and May, French voters will head to the polls to decide who will succeed François Hollande as their President. France’s constitution invests the French presidency with even greater powers than an American president’s. But for all the power of the office, Hollande’s presidency is ending in failure. A somewhat hapless figure, he’s not even running for reelection. His approval-ratings averaged 4 percent at the end of 2016.

Whether it’s center-left newspapers such as Le Monde or mainstream conservative outlets such as Le Figaro, the French press is full of anxiousness about the future. The angst proceeds from many sources. These include a deeply troubled economy and the near certainty of more Islamist terrorist attacks. Above all, there’s a sense that time is running out for France: that it’s close to the type of fall from which societies don’t easily recover.

So while France’s 2017 presidential election will concern bread-and-butter issues, this particular election is shaping up as one of those “it’s time to make an existential choice about our future” occasions.

Economically speaking, France is hardly a poor country. In terms of nominal GDP, France has the world’s tenth-largest economy. Yet some of the most obvious manifestations of France’s problems are economic.

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