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Hollande most likely to win French presidential run-off

05-04-2012 21:40 BJT Special Report:2012 French Presidential Election |

by Miao Xiaojuan, Oussama El Baroudi

PARIS, May 4 (Xinhua) -- French Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande is most likely to beat the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday's presidential run-off and lead Europe's second largest economy. But his "honeymoon period" will be short given he must proceed with pro-growth initiatives as promised, observers say.

All polls have long forecast the left-wing challenger's victory by a 5-to-10 percent margin against Sarkozy. Hollande position was further boosted by a fierce televised debate with no clear winner and support from the centrist party leader Francois Bayrou.

With presidential campaigning required to end by Friday midnight, most analysts expect Hollande to defeat Sarkozy in Sunday's run-off with the latter trailing in opinion polls for more than six months.

Hollande's expected victory, while putting an end to Sarkozy's high-profile political term for the past five years, also comes with tricky economic decisions in the coming months.

Hollande has vowed to temper the EU's austerity-focused fiscal treaty with more pro-growth initiatives, in contrast to Sarkozy's adherence to what he considers necessary austerity for balancing the budget. The president in the past called on his citizens to work harder.

Given Hollande's intention of renegotiating the EU fiscal treaty, experts believe that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will eventually find a way to work with him if he is elected, so as to continue a vital partnership with France.

"Hollande will need to take some symbolic action to spark economic activity, but beyond that he will be much constrained by EU rules," said Josef Janning, chief analyst with the Brussels-based European Policy Center think tank.

Hollande has also promised to be a president of social justice and economic growth. He proposed adding 60,000 jobs in education, something many consider unrealistic at a time of economic crises.

Another concern shared by many observers is the temptation of protectionism. Sam Bowman, senior researcher at the London-based think tank Adam Smith Institute, said Hollande might be more protectionist than Sarkozy, especially to defend France's manufacturing industry.

"The question is whether he will prioritize renegotiating the fiscal treaty, or take protectionist trade barriers as an alternative," Bowman said in an interview with Xinhua. He added all eurozone countries that had fallen into crisis had the problem of governments' overspending and that Hollande came from "the same school" of thought.

"He won't be prepared to make the cuts that are needed, and in that case it will expose France to market problems just like in Spain, Greece and Italy," Bowman said.

Professor Phillips Moreau Defarges, an expert on French policy, echoed that almost all French political parties believed in protectionism, despite the country being in the European single market with strict rules.

"The incoming French administration won't find it easy obtain an agreement from the EU," he said.

Many are convinced Hollande's economic promises will not be kept after he gets elected and eventually disappoint voters. Alternatively, he will blindly push forward and risk market chaos.

"I don't believe one single sentence in Hollande's economic plans. I rather think we need to encourage risk-taking and hard work," said Anne Laure Dreyfus, a 26-year-old French national from Strasbourg.

The French mentality of working less but having the same money and benefits "will just not work," she added.


Editor:Zhang Jingya |Source: Xinhua

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