Nicola Harrington - guest blogger living in France with 7 holiday rental gites

Nicola Harrington

Next Sunday the French elections will see the nation take to the polls to decide whether to re-elect Nicolas Sarkozy.

At the moment the polls are pretty even, so there is no way of guessing who will win this two-stage election. However, both Mr Sarkozy and his primary challenger Francois Hollande are recklessly adopting populist positions rather than tackling the more ‘unpopular’ issues.

With both polling around 30% in the first round, these two candidates are expected to progress to a head-to-head run-off on May 6.

The election itself is being played out as a populist war of words, with politicians choosing to ignore the real problems in France. This would require tough and potentially unpopular political decisions on a rebalancing of the economy, competitiveness of labour and social issues. The policies suggested are unlikely to even begin to solve these problems and focus instead on crowd-pleasing stances on taxation and public spending, and hostility to globalisation, specifically within the context of the Eurozone.

Economically, France with the second-largest economy in the Eurozone has a generous welfare and one of the highest levels of public spending in western Europe. France faces the harsh reality of having run a budget deficit every year since 1974. Earlier this year it lost its AAA credit rating. With public debt standing at almost 90% of GDP, France faces a crisis potentially similar to the other south European states unless it redresses its finances.

In a country where voters do not want to sacrifice social welfare to the altar of austerity, analysts warn none of the main candidates are going far enough to slash spending. The French social model, with its wide-ranging benefits, remains paramount.

We watch as the presidential candidates battle…

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