(Swans - May 7, 2012) The polls were correct, after all. François Hollande has been elected the new president of the French Republic with almost 52% of the vote. As a reader noted, Nicolas Sarkozy is the 11th European leader thrown out of power since 2008. After the first round, Sarkozy had little chance to get reelected. He needed the Front National and centrist votes. By going after the votes of the Front National he alienated the centrists. Then Marine Le Pen announced that she would deposit a blank ballot, and François Bayrou, the centrist Brutus, said he would vote for François Hollande. Sarkozy was cooked.
While he gave a very gracious concession speech, he leaves a country that is deeply divided, worried about the future, at war with itself. According to a recent study, 42% of the French people think that political leaders do not pay any attention to them (they were 15% in 1978). Only 17% feel positive, more or less, about their government. Sarkozy has been unable to address the challenges of the French society -- globalization, competition from Asian countries, deindustrialization, delocalization, unemployment, corruption and inequalities, European dysfunction, and an ecological transition due to climate change and resource scarcities. Now, I'm fully aware of the tall order these challenges are, and I do not know by whom and where else they have been answered. But he then spent much energy dividing people between rich and poor, immigrants and nationals, advocating some kind of a French identity rooted in the Christian civilization. In doing so, he alienated an ever-wider mass of people.
A friend of mine, otherwise a very courteous person, called him « un connard » ("an asshole"). He was detested, disdained. Many who voted for him did it not for him, but against the leftist peril. This election became an anti-Sarkozy referendum, a referendum he finally lost.
Mr. Hollande, who rode the anti-Sarkozy bandwagon, campaigned on the theme of change -- change now. He promised that he would be a gatherer, not a divider. Let's hope for the sake of France that he succeeds.
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