The core of political action is summed up in a single word, decide.
A great deal of criticism can be directed at Nicolas Sarkozy and I have never been embarrassed to criticize him. But there is one quality that must be acknowledged in Nicolas Sarkozy: his ability to decide at times of crisis. He did so, and very well, during the French presidency of the European Union. Or when he faced the Georgian crisis. Or facing the Libyan imbroglio. But making decisions quickly is not enough to decide with efficiency and accuracy. And the few reforms that he carried out, abandoning them sometimes in midstream, does not allow him, for the moment, no matter what he thinks, to hope for a sustainable track record in the country's history: neither the reform of universities, nor those of taxation, nor those of local authorities, nor those of human morality, nor is there any other that he encouraged that does constitute a major, irreversible and historic shift in improving the common destiny. And no major buildings, even, will bear his name. This is the way it is.
It was not inevitable: he could have, he should have made the State more effective and favored thrifty management, slimmed down the administration and the layers of elected office, liberated the forces for growth, attracted global talent, revolutionized primary school and life-long training. He did none of these things. Obviously, the international financial crisis has weighed on. Beyond, there are three reasons for this: the absence of an ambitious project; too great a concern with maintaining a positive public image by submitting himself to his own extremes; the absence of a serious mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the reforms. All in all, the inability to envision the role of statesmanship as anything other than a series of potentially contradictory decisions. Still what Nicolas Sarkozy succeeded in doing was accomplished only by a sizeable build-up of government debt, which neither Sweden, nor Germany, nor Canada, nor Switzerland did.
Other Heads of State before him demonstrated their ability to make decisions: General de Gaulle left an impressive and immense track record; Georges Pompidou carried out successfully some definitive cultural reforms, such as the Centre which bears his name; Valery Giscard d'Estaing left a reform lowering the age of majority, a legislation on abortion, the creation of the Group of Seven (G7) and the European summit; Francois Mitterrand left the abolition of the death penalty, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the deregulation of the airwaves, the decentralization program, the Grand Louvre, the Grande bibliothèque and the creation of the euro. Jacques Chirac, in my opinion, will leave no trace, but the Musée des Arts Premiers.
Francois Hollande is at this qualitative turning point: if he takes the wrong decisions, or if he does not take enough decisions, in the coming days, there will be nothing left, for him also, of his mandate. If, on the other hand, he considers the record of his predecessors, he can still be very useful to the country and leave a mark in its history.
He finds himself in a position much worse than that of Nicolas Sarkozy, almost two years after the start of his mandate: unemployment standing at its highest level; indebtedness has reached record levels; a country becalmed in recession, despite the recovery around it; and a power discredited by its dithering; all in all, a country on the brink of insubordination, a prelude to revolutions.
The relative failure of his predecessor should be enough to tell Francois Hollande that it will not be enough to claim the monopoly over decisions, though it is necessary. As for the best decisions that are to be taken in a timely fashion he will not succeed by having events manage them for him. It is incumbent upon him to decide what he wants to do, to say it, to place these projects into a great purpose and to put in place the necessary procedures to guarantee that these decisions are implemented: a timetable for implementation; a close monitoring at his level; a total neglect with the mantras of the public.
Far beyond the declarations of his next press conference, Francois Hollande will therefore have to make clear, and repeat, in the coming weeks, the geopolitical, cultural and social project which will provide a reference framework for his new commitments; he will also have to show that he can be indifferent to criticism, and give himself the means to translate his promises into deeds in the long term. For instance, it will not be enough for him to state the intention of reducing public spending, there will still be the need to explain what conception of the State this is a reflection of, how much he would reduce them, as early as next year, and in what sectors; and monitor himself the carrying out of this commitment.
The country is ready for this; both women and men want those at the top to finally end, in their public life, this ambiguity and finally dare to implement seriously sound and needed reforms, which are the subject of consensus for which only politicians turn a blind eye.