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Excerpt: "Francois Hollande swept into office on Sunday, becoming the first Socialist to be elected president of France since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995."

Francois Hollande addresses supporters in Tulle, France, 05/06/12. (photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP)
Francois Hollande addresses supporters in Tulle, France, 05/06/12. (photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP)

Hollande Ousts Sarkozy in French Election

By Steven Erlanger, Nicola Clark, The New York Times

06 May 12


r. Hollande's campaign promised a kinder, gentler, more inclusive France, but his victory over President Nicolas Sarkozy will also be seen as a challenge to the German-dominated policy of economic austerity in the euro zone, which is suffering from recession and record unemployment.

French voters may not like the belt-tightening, but both Mr. Hollande and Mr. Sarkozy had promised to balance the budget in the next five years. Domestically, the vote was considered to be a rejection of Mr. Sarkozy and his effort to appeal to the voters of the far right National Front. Mr. Sarkozy is the first incumbent to be ousted since Valéry Giscard d'Estaing lost to Mr. Mitterrand in 1981.

With about half the votes counted, preliminary results released by the Interior Ministry shortly after the last polling stations closed at 8 p.m. showed Mr. Hollande had secured about 51 percent of the vote, while Mr. Sarkozy, of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, had about 49 percent. The results were slightly closer than expected.

"François Hollande is the president of the republic; he must be respected," Mr. Sarkozy said in a gracious concession speech shortly after the polls closed. "I want to wish him good luck in the midst of these tests."

Mr. Sarkozy thanked "the millions of French who voted for me," but said he accepted "total responsibility" for Sunday's results.

"My involvement in the life of my country will be different now," Mr. Sarkozy said. "But time will never weaken the ties between us."

Speaking earlier to members of his party, Mr. Sarkozy, who campaigned energetically to the end, told them to "remain united" and not give in to division. He said he would not lead the party into June's legislative elections but said they were "winnable."

"I become a citizen among you," he added.

The presidential election in France and the parliamentary vote in Greece on Sunday have been closely watched in European capitals, particularly in Berlin, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has led the drive to cure the debt and banking crisis in the euro zone with deep budget cuts and caps on spending.

Mr. Hollande will make an early visit to Berlin. Ms. Merkel spent Sunday watching the results of state elections in Schleswig-Holstein, where exit polls indicated that her party was losing a fight to hold on to the state Parliament. With another election coming on May 13 in North Rhine-Westphalia State, Ms. Merkel is not viewed as having much room domestically to compromise on crucial economic issues.

Mr. Sarkozy is the latest of a string of European incumbents, from both the left and the right, to lose in a larger popular revolt against budget-cutting and tax increased during a time of recession and high unemployment. Mr. Hollande has said he intends to give "a new direction to Europe," demanding that a European Union treaty limiting debt be expanded to include measures to produce economic growth.

"How Hollande handles Merkel could make or break his prospects for the next five years," said François Heisbourg of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. "He has favorable circumstances, but she has domestic politics, too."

Ms. Merkel is considered likely to agree to only symbolic changes in the fiscal pact — not renegotiating it so much as adding clauses about growth.

Voters in Greece on Sunday appeared to radically redraw the political map there, bolstering the far left and neo-Nazi right in a wave of protest against the dominant political parties that they blame for the country's economic collapse.

The shift in France could prove to be more crucial. While crowds in Paris cheered Mr. Hollande's victory, investors were more cautious in their reactions.

They are concerned that Mr. Hollande might choose to spend more money to jump-start the economy rather than move ahead with labor and business reforms that economists say France sorely needs to improve its competitiveness to prevent it from getting caught in the euro zone crisis.

"Markets will not attack France right away," said Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. "But there is a risk that if Mr. Hollande does not act early on, France will become the next sick man of Europe."

Mr. Hollande, who could take over as president as early as May 16, will have little time to relax. He must travel to the United States for a meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized countries on May 18 and 19 and then attend a NATO summit meeting in Chicago the two days after that. In Chicago, he intends to make good on his promise to pull French troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year, although American and NATO officials will try to get him to change his mind.

Mr. Hollande's victory will also have important implications for the right in France, with Mr. Sarkozy's party already split between the prime minister, François Fillon, and the leader of the Union for a Popular Movement, Jean-François Copé.

The strong showing of Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front party, who got nearly 18 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, is a serious threat to Mr. Sarkozy's party.

It will have to decide whether Mr. Sarkozy will lead it into the parliamentary elections in June and make a deal with Ms. Le Pen for seats in the National Assembly. If not, Mr. Sarkozy's party could lose up to 100 seats, political experts say.

Mr. Hollande campaigned on "change" as well as a more traditional presidency in which he would set the main policies but not micromanage day-to-day affairs, as Mr. Sarkozy did. But Mr. Sarkozy was decisive, especially in times of crisis, and many question whether Mr. Hollande can do the same.

For the French, "it is a leap of faith that shows there is a strong will for a different policy course, not just at the national but at the E.U. level as well," said Paul Vallet, a professor of history and political science at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris.

Europe's debt-troubled nations also hope that Mr. Hollande will help them buy them more time to make economic adjustments.

"Some countries in Europe are banking on that," Mr. Vallet said. "Greece is hoping very much for a Hollande victory, hoping that he will side with them on loosening the fiscal austerity plan." Spain, too, could be hoping for France to be the point man with Germany on this issue, he said.

Mr. Hollande has called for euro zone bonds to finance infrastructure projects, for a financial transaction tax and for a loosening of regulations that would allow unused European Union structural funds to be spent on growth. Ms. Merkel can accept all these ideas, German officials have said, but she will not budge on loosening debt limits or allowing the European Central Bank to ease up on inflation or to loan directly to governments.

Domestically, Mr. Hollande has promised to raise taxes on big corporations and to increase the tax rate for those earning more than 1 million euros, or about $1.3 million, a year to 75 percent. He says that over the next five years, he will spend about $26 billion on programs and increase taxes by about $38 billion in order to balance the budget by 2017. Mr. Hollande has vowed to raise the minimum wage, hire 60,000 more teachers over five years and lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for manual workers who started work as teenagers.

Voter turnout was about 81 percent of the 46 million registered voters, down from the 84 percent who participated in the last presidential election five years ago.

Many voters, casting their ballots under gray skies and intermittent rain, expressed a strong desire for change and a better economic future.

Nicole Hirsch, a 60-year-old retiree in the working-class 20th Arrondissement of Paris, said she was voting for Mr. Hollande in the hope that he would "bring the change that France needs."

Pierre Marcus, a 59-year-old civil servant, said his vote for Mr. Hollande was motivated by the hope that a Socialist government would take steps to promote economic growth and soften the blow of the crisis on average citizens.

"Five years of Sarkozy dismantled social institutions," Mr. Marcus said. "I think that Hollande will reverse French politics in terms of employment and social issues."

Mr. Sarkozy, he said, had "ruled as a monarch" and "increased inequalities in the country."

Mr. Marcus compared the last five years to the period during the reign of King Louis Philippe in the 19th century.

"The bourgeoisie got much richer, and the peasants and workers lived in extreme misery," Mr. Marcus said.

Sebastien Modat, 38, who works in marketing, said "Hollande had the power to bring people together."

"The right was compelled to take up its traditional topics, creating tension among people," he said. But the main question, he added, "is how we are going to resume growth."

He voted for Mr. Sarkozy five years ago, but on Sunday he cast a blank ballot, which are not counted. "I hope there will be a change in mentalities and more consensus," he said.

Mathieu François, 48, an entrepreneur, said he had voted for a centrist candidate in the first round but for Mr. Hollande in the second. He said the trick would be to restart the economy without forgetting the poor and disadvantaged. "Sarkozy had favored the rich and austerity instead," he said.

His vote for Mr. Hollande, he said, was "a bet that this can work, that in a period of crisis, a political change can be favorable." France, after all, is neither Greece nor Spain. he said. "I have confidence in the fundamentals of my country." your social media marketing partner


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+72 # Billy Bob 2012-05-06 16:38
You can thank the French electoral process for producing a president more representative of the voters than our own. They have an open election followed by an automatic run off. There's no such thing as throwing away your vote in the French system.

Too bad we don't have a representative democracy here at home.
+17 # Jorge 2012-05-06 22:04
We would welcome Hollande to this country as a chance to restore democracy. As an immigrant he could not run for Prez but could do much to inspire democratic reforms and could run for other non-Presidentia l offices. Shouldn't the UN be looking into voter suppression laws in winger states? Jimmy Carter also needs to look into the voter suppression laws spawned by the wingers.
+16 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-06 22:31
...Not to mention that any candidate showing more than 5% vote in the open primary gets reimbursed of the totality of his limited-by-law campaign expenses; that radio and TV broadcasters are mandated to provide equal speech time (closely monitored) and that separately paid-for political advertisement is banned.
It does not guarantee there is no BS spread around but at least it is honest political BS, not plutocratic corruption.
+1 # noitall 2012-05-08 11:11
Our system wouldn't "work" if the people were informed with the truth. AND it is a boon for those (unworthy) users of the Public's airwaves.
0 # noitall 2012-05-08 11:08
Yes, ironic isn't it? Electorial College and the Senate (Wyoming has same # of votes in the senate as NY) are antiques used to the advantage of the few against the majority.
+25 # xflowers 2012-05-06 16:59
+50 # John Gill 2012-05-06 17:24
Vive la France! Vive la Socialisme!!! or however they might say it...but good on 'em!
+8 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-06 21:54
To answer your question it would be "Vive le socialisme" - Cheers.
(Full disclosure, although I did vote for Hollande, it was more to avoid another 5 years of Sarkozy as I am far from convinced Hollande can shoulder the burden.)
+36 # reiverpacific 2012-05-06 17:27
I know France well enough to be relieved, in spite of Chris Hedge's recent rather dismal report on RSN from the elections and I hope that Hollandé will try to balance their budget not at the cost to the social safety net, as would have Sarkozy, and which it appears that Angela Merkeley is pushing at in Germany -S.S.N. being relative to each country's demographic and the extent of it's safety net of course-, which in the US is practically non-existent and continuously under threat from above, their ignorant-lackey submerged shills and the mindless, rapacious drive to privatize everything and provide benefits for the few, as the appalling Thatcher did in the UK to her final demise.
France is one of my two target countries to emigrate back to when I have done what I need to do here (or have to get out anyway) and it's a relief to have it back to it's fundamentally Democratic Socialist Self (as is Scotland), where the people still have some say and sway if they get pissed off enough.
+59 # ganymede 2012-05-06 17:40
What do those French know? Weren't they the people who told us to stay out of Vietnam after they, themselves had their asses whipped by the Vietnamese, and, of course, they told Bush he was nuts to attack Iraq, and we ate those Freedom Fries as Bush lied us into this disastrous war. And now they've elected a Socialist to lead their country! Odds are on that Hollande will make things better not worse for the simple reason that the Socialists are not totally in the pocket of the plutocrats trying to keep control of the 'free' world. Maybe it will be a indication that socialism doesn't equal totalitarian communism, and that many European countries that have had mixed economies are more advanced than we are.
+28 # Dion Giles 2012-05-06 19:05
"Maybe it will be a indication that socialism doesn't equal totalitarian communism"

Fully agreed. Actually it has always been obvious that socialism doesn't equal totalitarianism or any abridgement of the individual liberties that really matter (speech, publication, private communication, travel outside the country, association, assembly). It does however put limits on financial and economic ambitions whereby citizens and foreigners can prey on other citizens. And a jolly good thing too.
+6 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-06 22:12
Yes, I remember Americans asking me if our homes had been nationalized after François Mitterrand was elected in 1981.
+8 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-06 21:56
"Freedom fries" never really bothered me - I have a Freedom passport too!
+2 # noitall 2012-05-08 11:26
I'm sure that the French are still reeling from the "freedom" fries thing. And their's aren't GMO.
+24 # colvictoria 2012-05-06 18:11
Great for France. We on the other hand are stuck with the lesser evil choice for President. As Michael Moore said it so succinctly the capitalists have 2 parties but where is the party for the 99%?
+4 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-06 22:20
"That's what the democratic parties personify: business groups! Nothing more. 'Weltanschauung '? What kind of reactionary expression is that? Honor, loyalty, creed, convictions? Man, you are living in yesterday!"
Joseph Goebbels

(So sind die Parteien der Demokratie: Geschäftsgruppe n! Weiter nichts. Weltanschauung? Was ist das für ein reaktionärer Begriff? Ehre, Treue, Glauben, Überzeugung? Mann, sie sind von Gestern!)
+14 # jbell94521 2012-05-06 18:23
Right on! This is a step i the right direction. Would that it could happen here. Fat chance!

Of course, the central issue that needs to be fixed in all industrial nations is to take back the power to create the currency. That is currently the power of cartels of huge private banks. The banks, being the great parasites that that are, then siphon roughly 40% off the top. That is more than enough to prevent any nation from ever emerging from under the weight of debt. Thus the banks run the world, as we know it. This means that any government is de-facto a dictatorship by the banks and for the banks. Only the central government should be able to create a nation's currency. That privilege must NEVER be given to any private entity, or mass endentured servitude will quickly follow. Here is a link to learn more about this:

For peace, freedom and economic justice!

Jeff Bell
+4 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-06 22:06
Banque de France is publicly owned as most other European central banks- of course now it owns part of /the/ ECB and tough luck it still gets to dictate currency policy for the whole euro-zone as one single thing.
+13 # MindDoc 2012-05-06 18:23
Well, tres bien! Of course there won't be instant or easy solutions, but many in Europe seem pleased with both (social) democracy, though not everyone was adamant about the choice presented. Many are pleased at the ouster of "conservative" dogma and big money ahead of 'the people'.

My concern is that already I see US MS Media spinning that "it seems this is a time of throwing out all the incumbents". This narrative needs to be adjusted to highlight that the conservative "austerity for the working people" movement is behind the ousters, not simply incumbency. Clearly, this has already played out in the US (rejecting the Bu$h model), and hopefully will further propel a global movement towards fairness and attention to 'We the People'. Time for us to in the US to join the people of the world and clearly reject the agenda of the 1%. Voting matters! (Even here, one can hope!)
+15 # Vern Radul 2012-05-06 18:28
The same thing needs to happen in America.

The truth is plain to see. It doesn't happen quite so much here, but all across the blogosphere people sit in front of their computers all day and argue about which national political party is "better". Which one is more likely to give the people what they want.

On the "left" blogs people talk about one party being tools of multinational corporations and the ultra rich, and say the other party is somehow "better" because it promises "hope" for the future somewhat in the same way religion promises salvation in some heaven, but only after death and only if you'll "believe" (clap) hard enough, and don't ask questions.

On the "right" blogs people talk about one party being tools of evil socialists and sex fiends and dopers who hate "freedom", and say the other party is somehow "better" because it promises "freedom" someday in the future somewhat in the same way religion promises salvation in some heaven, but only after death and only if you'll "believe" (clap) hard enough, don't ask questions, and kill anyone who gets in your way.

The truth is plain to see.
+6 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-06 19:42
Nice web site. I seea link from the home page to a Micheal Parenti interview and downloaded it. Also a link to the video 'Let your life be a friction to stop the machine', which is good stuff.
+2 # Vern Radul 2012-05-06 20:29
+8 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-06 18:47
Hollande and his socialists are not actually all that socialist, although more towards the center than Sarkozy.

No one should get their hopes up too much.
+6 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-06 22:09
Right on - let's not forget that it was the Socialist governement of Laurent Fabius (prime minister of François Mitterrand) who deregulated the banking system in 1985 although they had nationalized it, to replicate the US and British "miracles".
Tough luck as soon as these banks got reprivatized without restoring the previous regulations. Not as bad as Lehman Brothers or BoA but believe me Société Générale, Crédit Agricole or BNP are some tough nuts all right.
+2 # RMDC 2012-05-07 06:15
I listened to some of Hollande's speeches and thought he was rather Obamaeque. He even used the word "change" in his campaign in just the way Obama did. But still it is nice to see the sycophant Sarkozy go.

As should have been the case here, socialist politicians need tremendous pressure from the people to live up to some of their socialist ideals. Maybe the French can do better than we did with Obama.
+9 # Lennie 2012-05-06 21:27
One of the problems here is that too many of our citizens see anything that might be considered even remotely "socialist," instantly think of it as part of the international COMMUNIST" conspiracy. Not so. Not the same. The answer-EDUCATIO N.
+4 # Electricrailwaygod 2012-05-06 23:45
Je suis très heureux que Hollande a gagné cette élection! J'étais très fatigué de Sarkozy! J'espère seulement que la Hollande contribue à apporter à cette crise économique en Europe à un point final!

(I am very happy that Hollande won this election! I was very tired of Sarkozy! I only hope that Holland contributes to bringing this economic crisis in Europe to a final end!)
+4 # teineitalia 2012-05-07 02:52
Good for France! They get it... they are not stupid. They have been marginalized by the ignorant Republicans for years... yet, without the French, the American Revolution may have never succeeded. Viva le France! They will fall on the right side of history in this. They understand that "austerity" measures during a recession are madness.
+4 # erogers 2012-05-07 07:26
Yes in deed. Unlike America, France has an open political process. Lets hope Hollande can lead the process to take the country back from the forces which have tried to "Americanize" France. An educated voting class, listened and voted. Now to get the American voters to start thinking.
+3 # reiverpacific 2012-05-07 09:28
It's good to hear some actually intelligent and informed comments from Americans about France rather than the usual "cheese-eatin' commy" tripe I get so much, especially in rural areas and the harldy-made-it- through-high school followers of the right.
France actually had FOUR viable and organized parties in this election from the far right (Le Pen), full Left (Jean-Luc Mélenchon), Center Left (François Hollande) and Sarkozy on the Center-Right.
What helped Hollande was that Melenchon, after the first round, threw his weight behind Hollande for the final vote, whereas Le Pen refused to do the same for Sarkozy (She cast a "blank vote") which shows that the extreme right can be fragmented too (as they are beginning to be here by the Tea-Potties).
I've always thought that Obama and Sarkozy were pretty parallel politically and ideologically.
Also, note again how short the election season was; two-three months at the outside with an engaged and educated electorate and real choices, valid oversight and regulation, not a numbing, dumbing, crap-hurling infotainment and lobbyist/owner media circus lasting almost four years that plays directly into the hands of the super-rich.
Wonder what Nit Romney thinks (If he really does think??) about this ("Oooh I'd rather deal with ol' Nicholai when I'm president"!!!?? ?)? He spent his Mormon missionary gig in France. Can't see him there but there are suckers everywhere.

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