France: Europe swipes away its 11th leader since the beginning of the economic crisis
Hollande takes the win
The results are in and Sarkozy is out, France has its new president in the form of all round nice guy and self-styled “Monsieur Normal”, François Hollande. As Europe gets used to its 11th world leader since the economic crisis of 2008, critics are asking if ordinary, inexperienced Hollande is up to the job and what this means for the international community now that the bond between France and Germany is disrupted.
Socialist leader Hollande managed to scrape a three per cent victory, earning 51.8 per cent of the votes, last night following the final round of the 2012 presidential election, toppling right-wing Nicolas Sarkozy from his post as the President of France.
Hollande’s triumph has come as no surprise – he has been at the top of the polls for months – but perhaps France just never expected the inexperienced Socialist to actually win. This election has been dogged with shocks and events: far-right party, the National Front, won over 18 per cent of voters during the first round and radical attacks in Toulouse marred the early stages of all political campaigns as leaders were forced to cancel their schedules and flock to the south-west of France.
Over the coming weeks Hollande will be subjected to one of the most stressful times for any president as he rushes from city to city, attending G8, Nato and European Union summits. This interim period will give the new French president a chance to meet and greet – sometimes for the first time – other world leaders.
He will be forced to defend his position, not only to critics but also to fellow politicians, as Hollande has never held a ministerial role before despite being a prominent member of the Socialist party for more than 20 years.
Hollande’s plans for public spending are yet to be confirmed but, somewhat echoing his predecessor, he has pledged to “balance France’s books” by imposing a 75 per cent tax on marginal incomes over 1,000,000 euros and adding 60,000 jobs to France’s ailing school system, saying, “no child of the Republic will be abandoned”.
Despite promises of “growth, jobs and prosperity”, Hollande’s win has created hysteria in boardrooms around the world as politicians and businesses alike try to work out what Sarkozy’s defeat will mean for them and those around them: where do left-wing policies of equality and employment stand in a world reeling from financial destruction?
World leaders, who have been looking to relatively stable France and Germany throughout the credit crunch, will now have to place their faith in a different face. The love-in between French and German leaders Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel – dubbed Merkozy – is over. Hollande – who has been slammed for his “calamity of an economic policy” – is expected to rebuke a number if austerity measures that Sarkozy and Merkel thrashed out last year and demand for renegotiations to be opened up again, sparking controversy around the continent.
His appointment has unnerved politicians worldwide, including American President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who announced this morning that the country’s elections would take place over a year ahead of schedule. His plans to eradicate tax breaks for the rich and his approach to EU diplomacy have also isolated British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, who fear that home left-wing parties will use France as an example to oust their right-wing leader.
While demure Hollande celebrated his success at a small party in rural Corrèze, a stark comparison to Sarkozy’s lavish Paris victory celebrations following the previous election, Sarkozy took to the stage in Paris, delivering a sombre defeat speech in which he admitted he would be leaving politics to “live like a Frenchman, among others”.