Manuel Valls, the new French prime minister named on Monday by President François Hollande following Sunday’s collapse of the Socialists in the French municipal elections, has been appointed to get France out of the crisis that grips it.
The Spanish-born Valls is a very popular politician in a country that was not originally his homeland.
The most popular politician in France, he was anointed as the “salvation man” who will rescue his adopted homeland, the Socialist Party, and the government from an unprecedented lack of confidence and loss of public trust.
Though an influential member of the Left, he owes his reputation to his allegedly right-wing political tendencies.
He has an “iron fist” for the respect for law and order against all laxness, especially regarding illegal immigrants and those who wish to gradually infiltrate or subvert society. These include the Romani, Islamist extremists, anti-Semites, anti-Zionists, terrorists (such as Mohammed Merah, who perpetrated the March 2012 shootings in Toulouse and Montauban), and Dieudonné, a French comedian noted for his anti-Semitic statements.
Born in Barcelona, Valls chose to settle in France for its values, language, and culture, becoming a naturalized citizen at 19. He never hid his ambition to climb to the top of his chosen country. Talking about his generation in his first-ever TV interview, he said, “We represent the future.”
Valls began his political career working for then-prime minister Michel Rocard during the presidency of François Mitterrand and in public relations for then-prime minister Lionel Jospin. In 2012, he lost the Socialist primary for the presidency to Hollande and became his indispensable spokesman during the campaign.
Between 2001 and 2012, he was the mayor of Evry, near Paris, where he increased security and strengthened law and order. His approach was strictly secularist; he even opposed the opening of a halal supermarket.
To cultivate his image of “a hands on the job” politician when mayor, he did not hesitate to travel in police cars, leading in person the war against criminal and anti-social behavior of any sort. He has also stood up against differentiating between anti-Semitic hatred and strong opposition to the State of Israel, stating that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism, which is not a common view in France or Europe.
After Hollande’s victory in May 2012 and the nomination of Jean-Marc Ayrault as prime minister, Valls demanded and got the career opportunity of his dreams, the Interior Ministry. The ministry is in charge of internal security, and Valls became the No. 1 policeman, the top cop. He found himself in the same position as Nicolas Sarkozy when he was climbing to the presidency – perhaps a precedent? Valls is often compared to Sarkozy because of his muscular style; he is admired for his energy, his dynamism, and the strength of his views, although he recently stated that his “model” is Barack Obama.
A right-wing socialist? Social-democrat? Centrist? A top cop with a tough stance on law and order, a stance that is popular with the public but controversial in his own political party and with most of the far Left? For The Guardian, the man is a “Blairist,” a “Clinton,” with “economic realism” and “individual responsibility.”
It is hoped he will bring much-needed authority to the image of the government.
During the transfer of power, Ayraut paid respect to the energy of his successor, wishing him success in goals he was not able to achieve. Now the question is: Has Hollande made a wise move in naming the man on the far Right of the left-wing party as the head of the government?