Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

‘Monsieur Normal’ Francois Hollande wins French presidential race

President-elect Francois Hollande holds a bouquet of roses after delivering his victory speech in Tulle, central France (AP)

Francois Hollande scored a decisive victory in yesterday's presidential election and now has seven weeks to persuade the world that it can live with the new, Socialist face of France.

Declaring victory, he railed against austerity measures and urged national unity after a bitter campaign against Nicolas Sarkozy.

The mild-mannered Mr Hollande (below left) promised help for France's downtrodden after years under the tough-talking Mr Sarkozy (right), a man many blamed for economic troubles.

He says austerity should no longer be inevitable and said European partners should be relieved and not frightened by his presidency.

Mr Hollande told huge crowds of supporters in his electoral fiefdom of Tulle in central France he was “proud to have been capable of giving people hope again”.

Mr Sarkozy became only the second incumbent in half a century to be booted out of the Elysee Palace. In a humiliating disavowal of his erratic behaviour and record in office, and his use of divisive far-right language and themes to avoid defeat, an estimated 52 to 53.3% of French voters chose to entrust their destiny to the moderate but inexperienced Mr Hollande.

The new French leader — who is only the second centre-left President in 50 years of French presidential politics — will attend G8, Nato and European Union summits before the end of next month.

Mr Hollande will announce at the Nato summit the early departure of French troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.

He will also refuse to ratify the European treaty on fiscal discipline unless Berlin gives ground on new EU, growth-boosting, infrastructure projects.

Although more than 80% of the 46 million voters turned out yesterday, Mr Sarkozy failed to generate the last-minute wave of support from the centre and the far right that he and his campaign chief

had predicted. Mr Hollande — the so-called ‘Monsieur Normal’ — becomes the first Socialist President since his late mentor and boss, Francois Mitterrand, in 1981-88. He has promised budgetary discipline with “fairness” to reduce the French budget deficit to zero by 2017.

He has been specific about new taxes on the rich — including a 75% tax on marginal incomes over €1m — but he has been less specific about cuts in public spending.

President Sarkozy had hoped to snatch a victory by attracting a large proportion of the 17.9% of voters who went to the far right in the first round on 22 April.

He campaigned with increasingly divisive rhetoric in the past two weeks, in effect accusing Mr Hollande of being the preferred candidate of Islam and soft on illegal immigration.

The official transfer of power must take place by |16 May but may be brought forward because of the crowded international schedule facing the new president.

Profile

Francois Hollande was born in Rouen in Normandy in 1955. He has been a senior figure in Socialist politics for more than two decades but has never held ministerial office. He has four children with ex-partner, Segolene Royal, who was defeated by Mr Sarkozy in the 2007 election. His new partner, Valerie Trierweiler (47) is a TV and magazine journalist.

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