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The Devotion to Free-Market Reforms

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Royal wants economic realism. In terms of political representation, Royal’ s policies are limiting elected politicians to a single function, devolving more powers to the regions, increasing the prerogatives of parliament, introducing proportionality to the electoral system and creating popular ‘ juries’ to assess politicians’ performance. The real weakness of Royal’ s campaign, however, was political. Her main originality was the notion of ‘ participatory democracy’ , which led her to hold a series of meetings in which she mainly ‘ listened’ to members of the public. While initially praised as proof of innovativeness and openness, it soon became clear that this would lead to no major policy proposals.

In the final confrontation with Sarkozy, her ‘ openness’ could easily be interpreted as ‘ evasiveness’ , as when Sarkozy challenged her on reform of the 35-hour week. Whereas the right-wing candidate seemed to have clear ideas, Royal repeatedly answered that she would let the ‘ social partners’ (employers’ and workers’ representatives) negotiate changes to the law, while refusing to say which changes she thought were necessary. On a series of major issues, Royal often seemed content to reiterate general principles and vaunt the superiority of her ‘ values’ .

On the fundamental questions of economic policy and liberalization, Royal’ s policies differed little from those of Sarkozy. On racism and immigration, the Social Democrat Party has a more compassionate stance. Royal’ s early talk of military-style treatment centres for young offenders and a policy of ‘ zero tolerance’ and restoration of traditional values advocated a tougher policy on criminals. Protectionism has hit European Union members, as governments frightened by the rise in cross-border takeovers and mergers and faced by stubbornly high levels of unemployment have sought to protect high profile national companies and to promote national champions.

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