President Hollande has promised Bretons that he is prepared to consider the ratification of the European Charter for Regional and/or Minority Languages and increased powers for the Breton Regional Council, but as yet has made no commitment on whether he would support the reunification of Brittany.
These are some of the promises that have been made by other French politicians of the left before about Brittany, but is there any sign that President Hollande is different?
On the face of it Hollande comes from the same mould as other French politicians from the Jacobin tradition. He is a member of a mainstream political party and a career politician from a middle class Catholic family background. He is a graduate from the famous École Nationale d'Administration, which has given birth to many high flying civil servants and politicians, he is pro-European and of the left wing of the party. Like President Mitterand before him Hollande had some right wing influences in his early days, with his father standing in local elections on the extreme right, but he has in his mature years has developed into a nominal reformer advocate of French institutions.
Again like Mitterrand when he first became President, Hollande similarly knows that he has some way to go to make the Socialist Party popular with French voters and to help ‘unify’ a disaffected and in many ways disjointed French state. With a record number of voters in France voting for the French right wing – including in Brittany – in the first round of the presidential elections, Hollande is under no illusion that his first few months in office will be a difficult time. With legislative elections due in June 2012, Hollande must quickly win back popular acclaim for his party and the confidence of voters in order for the Socialists to stand any hope of making gains in the parliamentary elections. Without a majority in Parliament the new President is unlikely to be able to achieve the popularity for his party that was at one time enjoyed by President Mitterrand. Hollande may have won the Presidency, but it was only by a small margin. As the European media has discussed in recent days, the burden of responsibility has fallen squarely and fully on Hollande's shoulders.
It can be expected that Hollande will have more pressing issues on his mind than the Breton language and regional government. With the Euro currency in free fall and the challenge of trying to persuade a stubborn Angela Merkel to back track on austerity measures put in place with the support of President Sarkozy, it seems unlikely that the President’s attention will turn to Brittany any time soon.
Again Breton’s are in the limbo position that they have been in before – waiting to see if French politicians will deliver on promises made before their election to office. How long the Bretons will have to wait to see if President Hollande will deliver on his promises is anyone’s guess, but if he is going to move in favour of Breton linguistic and democratic rights, it is not likely to be until after the June elections. It may nevertheless be worth people writing to President Hollande before the June elections, asking for confirmation from him that he will act in favour of the Breton cause.
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