Nevertheless, the conservatives are not shy about deriding the Socialists as poor managers who have run the economy into the ground in the last five years. In a recent campaign speech, former Premier Raymond Barre said the country was "a stagnant France on the decline, an impoverished and worried France, sapped of its strength by the cancer of unemployment."
The strategy failed, increasing inflation and the budget deficit, making the Socialists look like bumblers. Within a year, the Socialists turned around completely, switching to an orthodox austerity program. After climbing for two years, purchasing power suddenly dropped.
Austerity alienated many traditional leftist supporters while gaining few converts from others furious at the Socialists for their early mistakes. Now austerity is beginning to work, but success may have come too late.