It has been approximately 17 years since France voted in a left-wing candidate — but that all changed this balmy May weekend with the election of François Hollande. The now closed presidential race unfolded amid a strained climate filled with the old challenges of partisanship; partisan attacks were leveraged by Nicolas Sarkozy's camp, the UMP, and the left opposition spearheaded by the Socialist Party. Unsurprisingly, both Sarkozy and Hollande did whatever they could to find any imperfection in their opponent that could swing the electoral balance in one direction or the other. The strong feelings of anti-Sarkozyism, palpable in the French electorate throughout the campaign, have inspired the recognizably bold and active re-election campaign led by the incumbent.
Many people have denounced Hollande saying he is not fit for the job of president. They say he is an incompetent man who came straight from his pastoral and idyllic Corrèze, where he never truly held decisive and prestigious office. They say he is someone who doesn't have the international scope required to deal with the big-wigs of world politics. Hollande boldly worked his way through the Socialist Party and came as the unexpected rival to Nicolas Sarkozy.
For those who lambasted and doubted Hollande’s capacity to govern France energetically and valiantly, I’d like to expose the reasons why I believe the man possesses the cardinal values and assets necessary to be a good and balanced president.
1) Hollande will be the antidote to Sarkozy’s social hubris. Barring a sudden veer in personality, Hollande won’t rule aloof from the French people. Sarkozy has often been vilified for his standoffishness with the French people, especially with the still populous countryside which badly suffered under Sarkozy’s rule. Many faulted his presidency for being a tad bit Parisiano-centric, and limited to a fistful of posh precincts. On the contrary, Hollande is naturally a man of the people, whose geographic and social origins are reminiscent of the long French cultural history and patrimony.
Furthermore, the new Socialist president vowed to contrast with his predecessor’s perennial showmanship. Hollande pledged to strip the presidential office off all the unnecessary pageantry and majesty wrongly attached to it by Sarkozy. Instead, Hollande will govern in keeping with the creeds of normalcy and moderation, and has vowed to underscore the solemnity and respect owed to the Fifth Republic's instituions.
Sarkozy’s mercurial and inconstant attitudes have surely served France well on the international stage, but he also irritated and exasperated many with his excessive brusqueness -- especially Germany's stern chancellor Angela Merkel, who had a hard time accepting the president’s outspokenness, tactility, and somewhat carnal embraces. Hollande will bring moderation and adaptability, not unnecessary exaggeration and show.
2) Hollande should not blush over his lack of Sarkozy’s stratospheric experience: Hollande is qualified and skilled enough for the job. Despite his provincial background, Hollande has brilliant academic credentials that predispose him to be a legitimate and hard-working president. He first graduated from HEC, a top French business school; he therefore masters more than vague notions of how the economy works. His economic and financial acumen will be paramount to face the challenges that await him.
In 1978, Hollande graduated from the stately political institute of Sciences Po Paris. On the heels of his graduation, he fulfilled his public vocation and entered l’ENA, the most prestigious French school known to churn out future leaders and decision-makers. France can be appeased and confident that Hollande — whose commitment to sectarian socialism is as sincere as Sarkozy’s lepenist bent during the late part of his campaign — will assuredly and competently handle the challenges lying ahead.
3) Hollande’s discourse won’t be tainted with incoherence and stigmatization; it will be constant and open-minded. Sarkozy has banked on aggressiveness and opportunism to justify his political ends. His campaign has been blatantly imbued with xenophobic and anti-European hues. He yearned to free the positive energies of France, to shatter the shackles of an endemic idleness that leeched off the French state and plagued the brave hardworking people -- the partisans of “true labor.” Yet his project for freedom was immediately thwarted by his unusual securitarian zeal. More frontiers, more barriers, less immigration all constituted the backbone of his campaign. His credibility eroded even more when he desperately strove to, unsuccessfully, pander to National Front voters. His incoherence and inconsistence got the better of him. Sarkozy could have been an outstanding president for France but he decided to broker a Faustian pact with the devil. He has only reaped what he consciously sowed.
Unlike Sarkozy, Hollande kept his cool and set a policy objective that he unwaveringly maintained throughout his turbulent campaign. This credibility weighed heavy in the electoral balance.
4) Hollande wants to establish an impeccable Republic, something Sarkozy failed to do with his ministers. Sarkozy erred on the side of debauchery with his cabinet, whose financial largesse has repeatedly upset the French people. The former president’s record is tarnished with high-profile cases involving personalities close to the presidency; including ministers who became embroiled in trials on charges of corruption or illegal manoeuvring —for example the Woerth-Bettercourt affair, or Gaddafi's alleged funding of Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign. Sarkozy himself, in his will to usher France into modernity, strove to de-complex the French with financial success. His ‘bling-bling’ fever didn’t go viral with the population, which then caused more resentment than approval.
In order to avoid the repeated scandals that have besmirched Sarkozy’s presidency, Hollande committed himself to exemplify moderation and to look out for a genuinely impeccable Republic; a Republic in which practices related to corruption, co-optation, and deceptive manoeuvres would be more intransigently punished and weeded out. In his now emblematic tirade on May 2, when Hollande courageously faced Nicolas Sarkozy during a heated debate on national television, Hollande reminded France of his wish to be an honest, respectable, and conscientious president.
You may not be convinced by Hollande’s capacity to rule France, or to aid a now sinking Europe. You may still deem his belonging to the Socialist Party as a relic of the outdated communist influence that led to the darkest hours of our time, but that would be overly simplistic. Hollande can be a pragmatic president, a convinced social-democrat whose style and stature could abolish the unashamed Sarkozyism that failed to inspire the people of France.
Hollande is more humble and more moderate; he relies on strong academic bases and is less narcissistic and individualistic in his personal style. Hollande could surely be a good president for France; a president in keeping with the traditions of the most renowned political figures who have marked theFifth Republic.