The sun is shining in France today after over a month of rain following the election of François Hollande as the President of the Fifth French Republic. Significant, non? Of course not, realistically we can’t really blame Sarkozy for making it rain, at least not literally. But after a President who swept into power filled with promises and went to regain on none of them, he seems to have been the most hated French President of all-time. Upsetting the conservatives with his second marriage to former supermodel Carla Bruni who possesses a long history of amours (including a father and son) and seen by many as ostentatiously flaunting his rich lifestyle while unemployment soared – he is not going to be missed by le peuple.
One would imagine. After the results had been announced last night, French boy went on Facebook like any self-respecting modern man to check people’s reactions. Not one friend was happy or celebratory for the Socialist win. Statuses ranged from (translated) “Get your coat, we’re leaving”, “What a catastrophe for France”, “We’re in the shit now”, and simply, “Putain!” (fuck). I am feeling slightly befuddled by this.
France seems to be unusual in that a lot of the youth seem to be right-wing (a hefty wedge of Marine Le Pen’s voters were aged between 18-26 years of age) rather than the norm in Western countries where the left-wing youth rebel against the old right-wing establishment. La crise cannot be forgotten for this state of affairs. Disenfranchised youth out of employment (le chomage) are disillusioned and malade avec the austerity measures in Europe. A lot of them feel that an extremist is the only one with the answers.
As Marine Le Pen has said “The President of the French Republic is just an employee of the European Central Bank!” During her campaign she endeavoured to point out that Hollande and Sarkozy were going to be the same for France; mais non, Madame. Now I have to stop writing so much about her because as the French say je suis pas fan. But she knows how to be provocative that’s for sure.
But the man of the hour is Monsieur Hollande, his piece de resistance is spurring economic growth and bringing an end to austerity: alors, il veut faire quoi?
- Raise the minimum wage
- Cancel scheduled spending cuts
- Hire back thousands of government workers
- Roll back the retirement age from 62 to 60
- Increase government spending to sponsor large infrastructure projects
How does one do all this? Taxes! France already has incredibly high taxes but after decades of conservative rule the rich and the bankers (one and the same) have been hiding away taking baths in Swiss banks. So Hollande is going after them with his pitchfork mob. Anyone making more than a million euros a year will see their tax rate go from 45% to a tear-inducing 75%. He won’t forget the banks, raising their taxes by 15%.
Hollande’s campaign focused heavily on domestic issues, and he doesn’t even have an announced foreign policy advisor. He does however want to withdraw the troops from Afghanistan in 2012, a year earlier than Sarkozy had planned, and two years before Obama.
“Since the conflict began in late 2001, France has lost 82 soldiers’ lives, of the total 2,992 coalition fatalities. By comparison, Germany has suffered 53 deaths, Canada 158, Britain 412 and the United States, 1,959. Sixty-eight percent of American losses have come during Obama’s 40-month tenure as commander-in-chief, 95 of them so far this year.”
I know you’re not supposed to like politicians, and I remember the same sort of excitement and hysteria around the time Obama was elected. Similar to the Sarkozy tenure, after eight years of Bush le changement était maintenant aussi...and Obama hasn’t done what he promised. However, I find Hollande quite endearing and whether it’s true or not, his portrayal of himself as a normal guy makes him very likeable. I truly hope that when the weight of what he has promised comes crashing down around his ears he can hold his own and grant at least some of his promesses.
Lastly, from a French language learner anticipating five years of listening to you, work on your articulation Monsieur Hollande, s’il vous plait. Don’t worry I will too.
P.S. Two rather large Irish flags were flying at the front of the stage at the Socialist victory party in the Place de la Bastille last night…what the hell. Seriously, if anywhere in the world there is a party – the Irish are there. See them (and more importantly Hollande’s victory speech) here.