NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

François Hollande elected President of France; Nicolas Sarkozy ousted after one term

It’s offi­cial: the République française will soon have a new leader.

The peo­ple of France oust­ed incum­bent pres­i­dent Nico­las Sarkozy today in a runoff elec­tion, deny­ing the Union pour un Mou­ve­ment Pop­u­laire (Union for a Pop­u­lar Move­ment) leader a sec­ond term in favor of Social­ist François Hol­lande, who has called for more invest­ment in France’s pub­lic ser­vices and few­er aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures. The close­ly-watched elec­tion is expect­ed to have sig­nif­i­cant reper­cus­sions, par­tic­u­lar­ly in Europe, which is still try­ing to shake off a fis­cal cri­sis.

Supporters of Hollande celebrate victory

Social­ist sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent-elect Fran­cois Hol­lande cel­e­brate vic­to­ry out­side The Bastille in Paris (Pho­to: Rodri­go Sepúlve­da Schulz, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

“My dear coun­try­men: On this day, May the 6th, the French have cho­sen change, and have elect­ed me to the Pres­i­den­cy of the Repub­lic,” Hol­lande told sup­port­ers in a vic­to­ry speech in Tulle. “I am keen­ly aware of the hon­or done to me and of the great­ness of the task ahead of me. And, here before you, I under­take to serve my coun­try — with the devo­tion and the exem­plar­i­ness required of this high office.”

Sarkozy, mean­while, con­ced­ed defeat. He accept­ed “total respon­si­bil­i­ty” for the results and wished Hol­lande well, acknowl­edg­ing him as the Pres­i­dent-elect of the Repub­lic. “My involve­ment in the life of my coun­try will be dif­fer­ent now,” Sarkozy told sup­port­ers. “But time will nev­er weak­en the ties between us.”

For those unfa­mil­iar with French pol­i­tics, Sarkozy’s par­ty, the Union pour un Mou­ve­ment Pop­u­laire (UMP), and Hol­lan­de’s par­ty, the Par­ti social­iste (PS), are the two major polit­i­cal par­ties in France. They are, to some extent, the equiv­a­lent of the Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ties here in the Unit­ed States, though not quite as dom­i­nant (France’s minor par­ties are stronger than Amer­i­ca’s minor par­ties). Ide­o­log­i­cal­ly, the UMP is con­sid­ered to be right wing (though not far right) and the PS is con­sid­ered to be left wing (though not far left).

The just-con­clud­ed pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has been char­ac­ter­ized by many observers as a ref­er­en­dum on Nico­las Sarkozy, who came to pow­er five years ago and, for a time, enjoyed wide­spread sup­port. His pop­u­lar­i­ty has since tanked, in part due to his embrace of inef­fec­tive aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures as a response to the the world­wide finan­cial cri­sis and accom­pa­ny­ing eco­nom­ic down­turn.

The White House announced that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma had already reached out to Pres­i­dent-elect Hol­lande. Accord­ing to Press Sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney, the two men spoke briefly by tele­phone after the out­come of the elec­tion became known.

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma called Pres­i­dent-elect Fran­cois Hol­lande of France to con­grat­u­late him after the results of the French elec­tion were announced today. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma indi­cat­ed that he looks for­ward to work­ing close­ly with Mr. Hol­lande and his gov­ern­ment on a range of shared eco­nom­ic and secu­ri­ty chal­lenges. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma not­ed that he will wel­come Pres­i­dent-elect Hol­lande to Camp David for the G‑8 Sum­mit and to Chica­go for the NATO Sum­mit lat­er this month, and pro­posed that they meet before­hand at the White House. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and Pres­i­dent-elect Hol­lande each reaf­firmed the impor­tant and endur­ing alliance between the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States and France.

Hol­lande has also spo­ken with the demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-cho­sen leader of the Unit­ed King­dom, a spokesper­son for Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron con­firmed:

The Prime Min­is­ter called Pres­i­dent-Elect Hol­lande this evening and con­grat­u­lat­ed him on his vic­to­ry. They both look for­ward to work­ing very close­ly togeth­er in the future and build­ing on the very close rela­tion­ship that already exists between the UK and France.

Hol­lande, who will be sworn into office very soon (pos­si­bly a week from tomor­row) is expect­ed to trav­el to Berlin to meet with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel. Merkel, like Cameron, had sup­port­ed Sarkozy’s reelec­tion cam­paign, but will now have to get used to work­ing with Hol­lande, who will be France’s pres­i­dent for at least the next five years. Sarkozy’s defeat isn’t the only loss Merkel will be rumi­nat­ing over dur­ing the course of the next few days; her own par­ty is per­form­ing poor­ly in local elec­tions today in Ger­many.

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