Hollande gets a drubbing in French municipal elections

Paris elected its first female mayor on Sunday night, but the victory for socialist Anne Hidalgo was “an isolated piece of good news” for President François Hollande, says Kim Willsher in The Guardian. His Socialist Party took a drubbing in municipal elections, losing 175 cities and towns.

Although the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) was the biggest winner, the far-right National Front took 11 towns, beating its previous late 1990s record of four.

With the economy “sluggish, unemployment soaring and presidential approval at a record low”, a loss of support was to be expected, says The Independent. But record low turnout (63.5%) and some “nasty surprises” indicate unusually high voter disaffection.

Across France, the National Front won only 6% of the vote, and remains as “shambolic and unprofessional” as ever. Even so, Marine Le Pen’s progress “cannot be easily dismissed”.

She is more credible than her father and the rise of the far right is mirrored across Europe as “economic inequalities and concerns at a perceived loss of identity leave voters tempted by extremes”. She has “distanced herself” from her father’s racism and focused on “bread-and-butter issues”, agrees PhilippeMarliere in The Guardian.

She is critical of globalisation and finance and wants to leave the eurozone and the European Union. “In short, she has reinvented herself as a politician on the side of ‘ordinary folks’.

Hollande, meanwhile, is “dramatically unpopular”, derided as the ‘president of the rich’, a “socialist who cuts taxes on the wealthy while raising VAT for all”. He has stuck to Nicolas Sarkozy’s austerity policies, even as unemployment and public debt have soared.

For all the company tax rebates, the economy is not growing. Having broken his campaign promises, Hollande is now “widely regarded as the supine ally of big business and Angela Merkel”.

In response, he has sacked his prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, and appointed a replacement, Manuel Valls, known for his hardline stance on immigration. It is a calculated risk, says Hugh Carnegy in the Financial Times.

Valls is a “highly divisive” Blairite figure for the Left. In an article he wrote for the FT in 2009, he said there was “no longer an alternative to the capitalist system and market economy” and dismissed the term “socialist” as outdated.

Hollande will hope that his “public popularity, tough reputation and strong communications” will outweigh party suspicions. Valls himself was at pains to identify himself as a socialist this week, declaring himself ready to “respond to demands for social justice”. Expect more of the same.

• Stay up to date with MoneyWeek: Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Google+

MoneyWeek magazine

Latest issue:

Magazine cover
The dollar's going up

Why your British stocks will follow

The UK's best-selling financial magazine. Take a FREE trial today.
Claim 4 FREE Issues

Hedge fund manager Hugh Hendry: 'It felt like the sun rose only to humiliate me'

In a series of three short videos, Merryn Somerset-Webb talks to Hugh Hendry, manager of the Eclectica hedge fund, about everything from China to the US, Europe, and Japan.

Which investment platform?

When it comes to buying shares and funds, there are several investment platforms and brokers to choose from. They all offer various fee structures to suit individual investing habits.
Find out which one is best for you.

17 December 1900: The Guzman Prize is announced

On this day in 1900, Clara Guzman stumped up 100,000 francs prize money for the first person to communicate with and receive a response from another planet.