′Elections are over, now things will get serious′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 11.06.2012
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'Elections are over, now things will get serious'

Francois Hollande's Socialists are rallying ahead of Sunday's decisive second round in parliamentary elections after a swing to the left in the first round of voting. But what impact could the poll have on Europe?

Stefan Seidendorf is the Head of European Section with the Deutsch-Französisches Institut (dfi), the Institute for Franco-German relations in Ludwigsburg.

DW: Just how significant is last Sunday's victory for Francois Hollande's party?

Stefan Seidendorf: It's not as big a victory as some of his most enthusiastic supporters would have hoped for. But it is a victory that will allow Francois Hollande to realize most of the reforms that he suggested. He will have a comfortable victory, possibly even an absolute majority in the French National Assembly. This was one of the conditions for him to implement his policies in the next five years. He will not depend on the extreme left, and he will even be able to govern with his own majority, with his own Socialist party, without depending on the Greens even.

If the result is confirmed in the next round, then the Left will dominate both houses of parliament. Does this mean Francois Hollande can do what he wants?

Dr. Stefan Seidendorf

Stefan Seidendorf, Institute for Franco-German relations (dfi)

This is an historic election in so far as the Left never had the majority of the second house, the Senate. The Senate was always dominated by the right. And so, for the first time, the Left in France will have a double majority. The Left is also very present on a local level across France, and the president is a Socialist.

But they don't have a two-thirds majority in parliament, so they will not be able to change the constitution. This will be one of the main problems when you consider the larger, more contested elements of the program: Francois Hollande wanted to give foreigners in France the right to vote. But he needs a two-thirds majority to get this through. It's one of the points that will probably not be realized.

How would a two-thirds majority impact policies on a European level?

The two-thirds majority is required for realizing the constitutional change that comes with anything linked to the common fiscal policy. This will be fairly easy to achieve, because most details have already been negotiated by his predecessors. The difficult task will be to get the growth pact through parliament. He is planning to negotiate the growth pact at the EU summit in Brussels at the end of this month. And this growth pact would require a constitutional reform. There he will need the support of the conservatives.

France has been in election mode for a while now. Many people - including politicians - say they are looking forward to the end of the campaigning, so that they can start getting things done. Do you share this view?

Yes, people are tired of the very long campaign. There is a big sense of relief that this is coming to an end next week. We saw a very low voter turnout of only 60 percent, which is a negative record in French history. Next weekend we're expecting more people to go out to vote. Now Francois Hollande has to deliver. The French budget will be decided in some six weeks' time. The first sessions of parliament will also have to deal with the questions of where spending cuts can be made and how France can get its deficit under control, because it's currently not complying with the Maastricht criteria.

European leaders are meeting in Brussels at the end of the month. What can we expect from Francois Hollande? And what are the areas of contention when it comes to Angela Merkel?

Now that the parliamentary elections in France are over, things will also get serious on the European level. European leaders are not ready to renegotiate the fiscal pact. It has simply never happened in European integration history that an agreement is renegotiated after there have been elections in a member state. But of course Francois Hollande comes with very precise demands.

Angela Merkel has already signaled her willingness to embrace some of the suggestions that Francois Hollande has made: the so-called project bonds, for instance. They are also expected to agree on a further strengthening of the European Investment Bank. But it will be interesting to see whether Francois Hollande will go further, and, for instance, suggest the introduction of Eurobonds again.

In terms of foreign politics, Francois Hollande is inviting the Friends of Syria to Paris for their third meeting in July. Is he preparing for a military intervention?

France is currently preparing a difficult retreat from Afghanistan. The country also had a considerable engagement in Libya. It's not clear yet in what way they could allow or finance a military intervention in Syria. And of course they would need the backing of the UN Security Council. Francois Hollande has made this a condition for any possible intervention, but both China and Russia are still insisting they would veto such a vote at the UN.

Interview: Nina Haase
Editor: Joanna Impey

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