Rhetorical divergence; Real convergence? The economic policy debate in the 2002 French presidential and legislative elections
Why, despite considerable convergence in the economic policy preferences and policies of the mainstream Left (principally Socialist Party) and Right, did economic policy remained a major subject of debate during the 2002 election campaigns in France? Convergence had taken place thanks to the relatively successful pursuit by the Jospin Government of moderately rigorous policies and a cautious liberalisation over the previous five years which corresponded to the longest period of strong economic growth (1998 to 2001) since the late 1980s. The 2002 elections reflected the now well-established trend of an incumbent Socialist leadership to lean towards moderation on economic policies (as in 1986 and 1993). Despite the economic slowdown since 2001, the state of the economy did not provide fertile ground for President Jacques Chirac and the political opposition in the context of the electoral partisan debate. Chirac nonetheless played the rebel on economic policy, challenging the constraints of the Euro-zone’s Stability and Growth Pact especially given that these constraints made the fulfilment of his promises on tax cuts and government spending unrealistic.