Monsieur President: Hollande era begins in France

France24 this morning has a concise biography — complete with photos — of the man of the hour, France’s newly elected president François Hollande:

[Hollande’s] political rise to the country’s top post has been slow and steady, with the French media portraying him as “Monsieur Normal” – an easygoing, everyday man. Contrast that with the glamour-struck Nicolas Sarkozy, who earned the nickname “hyper-president” during his five years in office.

If Hollande’s victory has a fabled quality, it surely mirrors Aesop’s “The Hare and The Tortoise”, with the steady, shelled creature finally outpacing the hyperactive hare.

International audiences are probably more familiar with his former partner, Ségolène Royal, who unsuccessfully ran against Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential poll. For those who knew him during the 2012 campaign trail – and that includes his comrades on the left – Hollande was the butt of snide, if good-natured, monikers, including “Flanby” (a wobbly custard) and “capitaine du pedalo,’ or the captain of a pedal boat.

But in the course of his bid for presidency, Hollande emerged as a statesman-like figure, a change that included an image makeover, complete with a 10 kilo weight loss and designer glasses.

Meanwhile, Der Spiegel notes that Hollande will have to make a very rapid transition from candidate to president:

But now a new era has started. And François Hollande will soon be Angela Merkel’s most important partner in Europe. They are due to meet soon, maybe as soon as May 15, after Hollande’s inauguration. The meeting will reveal how far apart the two really are in their political thinking, and how far they are prepared to go to push through their respective agendas.

The Guardian walks through how Sarkozy got it wrong:

Sunday’s vote was a personal referendum on Sarkozy. At the start of his mandate, he was briefly the most popular president since Charles de Gaulle; then he plummeted to record lows for four years and festered there. Rejection of the “president of the rich” was not just about his ostentatious vaunting of money – celebrating his 2007 win at a flash restaurant with the nation’s richest people and borrowing a millionaire’s yacht when he had promised to retreat to a monastery….

All this combined with a feeling of betrayal and disappointment at his record in office after he had promised to transform France to its core. Sarkozy had vowed to be the president who restored the values of work and reward, but he left France with 1 million more unemployed people and millions who struggled to make ends meet. The rich got richer on the back of his tax breaks for them, and France had a growing sense of injustice and doublespeak. Before the election, polls showed that 64% of French people were unhappy with Sarkozy and viewed his record in office as negative. Crucially, a majority felt he had never intended to keep his promises to France.





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