For years, France's political elite has played with fire; it could all end very badly: A crisis within the system is not unlikely. And to alleviate it, it is certainly worth telling how this brewing and emerging crisis could take place.
Since 2007 faced with a crisis of great magnitude, successive governments in France have not considered the scale of the challenges they were faced with. None of them have ever explained to the French people the immensity of the reforms needed, or at least the requirements for the control of public debt, as they did quite the opposite in fact, using these requirements to avoid reforming.
Today, as the government of Manuel Valls finally dares to announce, rather hastily, a €50 billion budget savings plan, the entire French political class is as if startled and stunned. The French Parliament, left out from the discussions on the nature of the crisis and the decisions to be taken, is as if in a state of shock.
In view of this denial, the parliamentary majority could refuse, at some stage, to adopt one of the upcoming proposals: Either the Responsibility Pact; or savings to be made as early as in the 2014 Budget; or even worse, in November, in the 2015 Budget. All the more so as, later on, we will find out that the €50 billion budget savings plan outlined last week (and not yet clearly identified) will have an impact at the heart of the middle classes; and will discover that tens of billions more will need to be found to avoid uncontrolled expansion of government debt.
If this majority refuses to vote these spending cuts, unavoidably unpopular because not explained, and if it's not supplemented by significant opposition blocs, one of these principal texts, indispensable, will only be adopted under article 49-3 of the Constitution of France, where the Prime Minister can engage the responsibility of his government on a law (the law is then considered adopted unless the National Assembly votes a motion of censure, in which case the law is refused and the government has to resign). Despite this threat, the Greens and a segment of the left of the left-wing may be reluctant to rally around and may prefer to reject the text rather than to defend the majority in place. This would result in the entire government resigning, ineluctably followed by the dissolution of the National Assembly. The right wing, who would win in a tidal wave the next elections, would then have to respond to the request from the President of the Republic and nominate one of their members to be the head of government. They probably will not do so, as a number of important leaders of the UMP (The Union for a Popular Movement) have already announced; and the vote of confidence will not be given by their parliamentary group no matter what government is appointed by the President, whether it is composed of technical experts or an attempt to establish national Unity. The President of the Republic would then be forced to resign; and we would head into a Presidential campaign mainly centred within the right wing of the French political spectrum. The left would be removed from power for a long time. A very long time.
During these long months of disorder, France would not be governed; no reform would be implemented. Deficits would worsen. Then the necessary remedies would be even more severe, provided that those cures are still possible.
Even if some continue to hope that a possible return to a cycle of stronger economic conditions will be enough to mask the country's failed policies, this is a likely scenario. And by all appearances, it is in the interest of many political forces:
The far left to create a real revolutionary movement freed from the social-democrat mortgage. The UMP to regain control of all powers, without taking the time to reflect on the reasons why they were defeated in 2012. The National Front to ensure that France can no longer escape an exit from the euro and the victory of the National Front party, after another failure of the parliamentary right.
This scenario, that is likely, would be a disaster for the country; and the politics of the worse is in nobody's interest: Neither the parliamentary right, nor the left of the left-wing would have anything to gain by providing a stepping stone to the far right. In fact, they both are best served by letting the current government take upon itself the unpopularity of decisions that are increasingly unavoidable day after day.
Be that as it may: The crisis within the system, before the end of the term of office of the current President, is a very realistic hypothesis, in a country in which political suicide seems to have become something of a national sport.