France votes for change, boots Sarkozy in favour of Hollande

PARIS — Socialist Francois Hollande defeated conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday to become France’s next president, heralding a change in how Europe tackles its debt crisis and how France flexes its military and diplomatic muscle around the world.

PARIS — Socialist Francois Hollande defeated conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday to become France’s next president, heralding a change in how Europe tackles its debt crisis and how France flexes its military and diplomatic muscle around the world.

Exuberant, diverse crowds filled the Place de la Bastille, the iconic plaza of the French Revolution, to fete Hollande’s victory, waving French, European and labour union flags and climbing its central column. Leftists are overjoyed to have one of their own in power for the first time since Socialist Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.

“Austerity can no longer be inevitable!” Hollande declared in his victory speech Sunday night after a surprising campaign that saw him transform from an unremarkable, mild figure to an increasingly statesmanlike one.

Sarkozy is the latest victim of a wave of voter anger at government spending cuts around Europe that have tossed out governments and leaders over the past couple of years.

In Greece, a parliamentary vote Sunday is seen as critical to the country’s prospects for pulling out of a deep financial crisis felt in world markets. A state election in Germany and local elections in Italy were seen as tests of support for the national government’s policies.

Hollande promised help for France’s downtrodden after years under the Sarkozy, a man many voters saw as too friendly with the rich and blamed for economic troubles.

Hollande said European partners should be relieved and not frightened by his presidency.

“I am proud to have been capable of giving people hope again,” Hollande told huge crowds of supporters in his electoral fiefdom of Tulle in central France. “We will succeed!”

Hollande inherits an economy that’s a driver of the European Union but is deep in debt. He wants more government stimulus, and more government spending in general, despite concerns in the markets that France needs to urgently trim its huge debt.

While some market players have worried about a Hollande presidency, Jeffrey Bergstrand, professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame, said it’s a good thing that Hollande will push for more spending throughout Europe to stimulate the economy.

Europe is “going into a really serious and poor situation,” Bergstrand said. Hollande “is going to become the speaker for those countries that want to do something about economic growth.”

Sarkozy conceded defeat minutes after the polls closed, saying he had called Hollande to wish him “good luck” as the country’s new leader.

Sarkozy, who ran the country through its worst recession since the Second World War and the ensuing European debt crisis, said he did his best to win a second term, despite widespread anger at his handling of the economy.

“I bear responsibility . . . for the defeat,” he said. “I committed myself totally, fully, but I didn’t succeed in convincing a majority of French . . . . I didn’t succeed in making the values we share win.”

Sarkozy came to office on a wave of hope for change that critics say he squandered even before the economic crises hit. They saw his tax reforms as too friendly to the rich, his divorce in office and courtship to supermodel Carla Bruni as unseemly and his sharp tongue as unfitting for his esteemed role.

With 75 per cent of the vote counted, official results showed Hollande with 51.1 per cent of the vote compared with Sarkozy’s 48.9 per cent, the Interior Ministry said. The CSA, TNS-Sofres and Ipsos polling agencies all predicted a Hollande win as well.

Hollande has virtually no foreign policy experience but he will face his first tests right after his inauguration, which must happen no later than May 16.

Among his first trips will be to the United States later this month for summits of NATO — where he will announce he is pulling French troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year — and the Group of Eight leading world economies.

Hollande’s first challenge will be dealing with Germany: He wants to re-negotiate a hard-won European treaty on budget cuts that Germany’s Angela Merkel and Sarkozy had championed. He promises to make his first foreign trip to Berlin to work on a relationship that has been at the heart of Europe’s postwar unity.

At home, Hollande has pledged to tax the very rich at 75 per cent of their income, an idea that proved wildly popular among the majority of people who don’t make nearly that much. But the measure would only bring in a relatively small amount to the budget, and tax lawyers say France’s taxes have always been high and unpredictable and this may not be as much of a shock as it sounds.

Hollande wants to modify one of Sarkozy’s key reforms, over the retirement age, to allow some people to retire at 60 instead of 62. He also plans to increase spending in a range of sectors and wants to ease France off its dependence on nuclear energy. He favours legalizing euthanasia and gay marriage.

Sarkozy supporters call those proposals misguided.

“We’re going to call France the new Greece,” said Laetitia Barone, 19. “Hollande is now very dangerous.”

Sarkozy had said he would quit politics if he lost, but was vague about his plans Sunday night.

“You can count on me to defend these ideas, convictions,” he said, “but my place cannot be the same.”

His political allies turned their attention to parliamentary elections next month.

People of all ages and different ethnicities celebrated Hollande’s victory at the Bastille. Ghylaine Lambrecht, 60, who celebrated the 1981 victory of Mitterrand at the Bastille, was among them.

“I’m so happy. We had to put up with Sarko for 10 years,” she said referring to Sarkozy’s time as interior and finance minister and five years as president. “In the last few years the rich have been getting richer. Now long live France, an open democratic France.”

“It’s magic!” said Violaine Chenais, 19. “I think Francois Hollande is not perfect, but it’s clear France thinks its time to give the left a chance. This means real hope for France. We’re going to celebrate with drink and hopefully some dancing.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The future of Westerner Park continues to be plagued by many unknowns, including when city council will make a decision about financing its operations. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Red Deer city council delays making decision on Westerner Park financing

It will mean missing the next opportunity to apply for a provincial loan

Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted
Busy days at Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler

The ranch, which launched operations last summer, provides support through animal interaction

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the announcement that the city will be getting a drug treatment court Thursday. Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, looks on.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Veer concerned about rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

The City of Red Deer is reminding citizens to protect themselves against… Continue reading

Rode
Volunteering played major role in RDC awards

Under normal circumstances, the RDC Red Deer Bottling Athlete of the Year… Continue reading

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday that the province has seen its first case of the B.1.617 variant. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears record number of active COVID-19 cases

Alberta reports 1,857 new cases of COVID-19, 1,326 new variants

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

Toronto Maple Leafs' Nick Foligno (71) and Mitchell Marner (16) celebrate Marner's goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, April 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Taylor Pendrith from Richmond Hill, Ont. salutes the crowd after sinking a birdie on the 18th hole to come in at five under par during first round of play at the Canadian Open golf championship Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder George Springer (4) walks on the field during a team workout, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Blue Jays face the New York Yankees on opening day Thursday in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Toronto Raptors' Khem Birch (24) defends against Brooklyn Nets' Blake Griffin during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Team Canada's Jocelyne Larocque celebrates her goal past the U.S.A. with goaltender Embrace Maschmeyer during first period of Women's Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Health Minister Patty Hajdu is shown at a COVID-19 press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Kawai
Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Lawmakers are debating legislation to legalize single-event betting as a bill reaches final reading in the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Humphrey
Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Most Read