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Thread: Politics: Socialist Hollande ousts Sarkozy in French vote

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Politics: Socialist Hollande ousts Sarkozy in French vote

    Socialist Hollande ousts Sarkozy in French vote

    Francois Hollande was elected France's first Socialist president in nearly two decades today, dealing a humiliating defeat to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and vowing change in Europe.

    The result will have major implications for Europe as it struggles to emerge from a financial crisis and for France, the eurozone's second-largest economy and a nuclear-armed permanent member of the UN Security Council.

    With only votes from abroad left to count, Hollande had won with 51.67 percent of the vote to 48.33 percent for Sarkozy, becoming France's first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995.

    Greeted after his win by a huge throng of supporters in Paris's iconic Place de la Bastille, Hollande hailed his victory as part of a movement rising in Europe against fiscal austerity.

    "You are much more than a people who want change. You are already a movement that is rising across all of Europe and maybe the world," he told the cheering masses.

    He has wasted no time in pushing his agenda.

    Earlier yesterday evening he told a crowd in his hometown of Tulle that "France chose change", warning fellow European leaders he would move ahead with his vow to refocus EU fiscal efforts on growth.

    "This is the mission that is now mine: to give the European project a dimension of growth, employment, prosperity - in short, a future," he said.

    "This is what I will say as soon as possible to our European partners and first of all to Germany... We are not just any country on the planet, just any nation in the world, we are France."

    Sarkozy conceded defeat and indicated that he intends to step back from frontline politics.

    "The French people have made their choice... Francois Hollande is president of France and he must be respected," the outgoing leader told an emotional crowd of supporters.

    "In this new era, I will remain one of you, but my place will no longer be the same. My engagement with the life of my country will now be different."

    Sarkozy stopped short of confirming his retirement, but leaders in his right-wing UMP party told AFP he had told them he would not lead them into June parliamentary elections.

    Hollande and his team urged supporters to give the Socialists a strong mandate in the two-round parliamentary vote on June 10 and 17.

    "There is still much to do in the months to come, first of all to give a majority to the president," Hollande told the crowd in Paris.

    Neck-to-neck race

    Two polls released on Sunday showed the Socialists and Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party neck-and-neck ahead of the vote, with 31 percent planning to vote Socialist and 30 percent for the UMP.

    Hollande led in opinion polls throughout the campaign and won the April 22 first round with 28.6 percent to Sarkozy's 27.2 percent - making the right-winger the first-ever incumbent to be trailing in the first round.

    Grey skies and rain showers greeted voters across much of France, but turnout was high. The latest interior ministry figures said 81.03 percent of the 46 million eligible voters had turned out.

    The election was marked by fears over European Union-imposed austerity and globalisation, and Hollande has said his first foreign meeting will be with German Chancellor Angela Merkel - the key driver of EU budget policy.

    The 57-year-old Socialist has vowed to renegotiate the hard-fought fiscal austerity pact signed by EU leaders in March to make it focus more on growth.

    Hollande appeared to be winning over European leaders quickly on Sunday, with some capitals already echoing his call for growth measures.

    Germany reached out, with Merkel inviting Hollande to Berlin and her foreign minister vowing to work with Paris on a growth pact.

    "The chancellor invited the French president-elect Hollande to come to Berlin as soon as possible after his inauguration," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said after a phone call between the pair.

    "We will work together on a growth pact," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin. "I am confident the Franco-German friendship will be further deepened."

    On the domestic front, Hollande has said he will move quickly to implement his traditionally Socialist tax-and-spend programme, which includes boosting taxes on the rich, increased state spending and hiring 60,000 teachers.

    Deep-rooted anger

    Sarkozy fought a fierce campaign, saying a victory for Hollande would spark market panic and financial chaos. He called him a "liar" and "slanderer" in the final days of the race.

    But he failed to overcome deep-rooted anger at meagre economic growth and increasing joblessness, and disappointment after he failed to live up to the promises of his 2007 election.

    Sarkozy, 57, was also deeply unpopular on a personal level, with many voters turned off by his flashy "bling bling" lifestyle - exemplified by his marriage to former supermodel Carla Bruni - and aggressive behaviour.

    The first round of the election last month saw a record 18-percent score for Marine Le Pen of the far-right, anti-immigrant and anti-Europe National Front.

    Sarkozy turned increasingly to the right ahead of the run-off, vowing to restrict immigration and "defend French values". But Le Pen refused to call on her supporters to back him and she cast a blank ballot.

    Hollande is expected to be sworn in by May 15.

    After seeing Merkel he will set off for a series of international meetings, including a G8 summit in the US on May 18-19 and Nato gathering in Chicago on May 20-21.

    In a telephone call, US President Barack Obama invited Hollande for talks before the G8 summit, expressing hope the pair would work "closely," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

    - AFP

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Change Europe can believe in?
    By Pepe Escobar

    Europe may just be living a remix of the late 2008 moment when Barack Obama won the presidency in the United States. But this time, will it be real?

    The election on Sunday of socialist Francois Hollande as president of France comes at an extraordinary historical junction. He may have risen to the occasion himself, stressing in his acceptance speech "austerity is not a fatality". This is not only about France - it's about the future of Europe. And when France talks - better yet, acts - Europe listens.

    What a party that was in Bastille on Sunday night - capable of sending chills to any spine. A cross-section of French society sending a message to Europe and the wider world; it's possible to dream of change - and most of all, social justice. There is an alternative.

    And all that with a Quiet Frenchman as the lightning rod. A "normal" guy. Not bad for what was the socialists' replacement choice - after former uber-favorite, then International Monetary Fund (IMF) director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, fell for that extremely dodgy sex trap at the Sofitel in New York.

    But now it's hangover time. The Left runs only seven among 27 European Union (EU) nations. The bling bling King Sarko, neo-Napoleonic Liberator of Libya former president Nicolas Sarkozy, has been reduced to a minor historical footnote - with his popstar Italian belle wife Carla Bruni already plotting her next career move. King Sarko is the 11th European leader to fall over the double-dip European recession. "Merkozy" - King Sarko and German chancellor Angela Merkel, the mongrel couple running Europe, is dead.

    Slouching towards Merkollande
    Frau Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron were and remain all for "austerity". Iron Lady Angela badly wanted King Sarko to remain in place. Yet Hollande sent special envoys to Berlin last week. As a pragmatist, he knew that Merkel had seen first hand how Sarko could also be arrogant and unpredictable.

    Hollande is a self-effacing, down to earth pragmatist fond of consensus who happens to be an economist who once taught at the elite Sciences Po in Paris. He's no radical. "Merkollande" will have to be born out of pragmatism. The really tough nut to crack will be German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueuble - the Wotan of Austerity in the eurozone.

    Merkel and Schaueuble would need to be hacked to death by a gang of Visigoths to let go of their fiscal pact - to which King Sarko subscribed. Mario Draghi - former Goldman Sachs hand and president of the European Central Bank (ECB) - wants a growth pact as well. He - and the neo-liberal elite - see it as even freer markets, that is, a hire-and-fire free for all, perhaps coupled with more public investment in infrastructure.

    Hollande is totally against the uncontrolled, unregulated mega-free market. As for public investment, the only nations who could pull it off need good credit rating and low financial costs. Virtually none in the EU now qualify.

    So it would be up to Germany. The capital would have to be German. We should expect Hollande to convince Merkel that sooner or later Germans will notice that never-ending recession is politically toxic. The foremost ominous consequence already exists - for all to see; the extreme right wing on steroids all across Europe.

    During his campaign, Hollande went no holds barred to identify who the "enemy" is; it's "the world of finance". No wonder Wall Street and the City of London saw - and will continue to see - Hollande as more dangerous than Vladimir Lenin. So the battlefield is drawn; Hollande versus neo-liberalism and "the markets", Hollande as Don Quixote versus the iron troika of the ECB, the IMF and the European Commission (EC).

    Epic doesn't even begin to describe it. Once again; let's follow the money (as in disappearing euros).

    Public debt in France is 90% of gross domestic product (GDP). There have been no balanced budgets since 1974. The ratio of government debt to GDP is almost 57% - the highest among the 17 eurozone nations. Unemployment is at roughly 10%. Virtually an entire generation of children of migrants - mostly from Northern Africa - have been confined to ghettos, sullen and unemployed, all their lives.

    Hollande wants to change France's retirement age from 62 back to 60. He wants to hire at least 60,000 new teachers. He wants to reduce electricity prices for low-income people. The only way to finance all this would be his (promised) 75% tax rate on anyone earning over 1 million euros (US$1.3 million) a year, plus a tax on financial transactions. No wonder la grande bourgeoisie in France is tearing their Diors in despair.

    So that's Hollande's platform in a nutshell; jobs and economic growth. If he fails, the extreme-right wins, blaming both Paris and Islam.

    Show me the money
    Under Hollande, the grand lines of King Sarko's foreign policy may hold - but they will be substantially tweaked.

    Hollande has never been to China. In Beijing, they are inclined to see him as a "normal president" - unlike the Duracell bunny on crack King Sarko. Thus, from a Chinese point of view, relations are bound to be "normal", as in "stable".

    Crucially, Hollande wants a deeper strategic partnership with the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. And especially savory to the emerging powerhouses, he is in favor of the end of the US dollar as the world's reserve currency - to be replaced by a basket of currencies. Now the BRICS may have a strategic ally right at the heart of the EU in terms of trying to modernize the global financial system.

    Hollande's first international test is right ahead, at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Chicago later this month. It will be fascinating to watch whether he may be able to throw a monkey wrench into NATO's Globocop ambitions. Most European countries, fed up with the black-hole adventures in Afghanistan and Libya, may in fact support him. Hollande said he would withdraw all French soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.

    But the real war will be inside Europe. In the end, we're back to "follow the money".

    Hollande wants France's ageing population to retire early. He wants France's farmers comfortably subsidized - not to mention its cows, whose standard of living is better than 2 billion people on the planet. He wants the generous French social welfare apparatus to keep working.

    How to pay for all this - when all the money has been sucked up into the bulging pockets of the 0.1%? The "normal" guy may not just be making a push to change Europe; he will have to make a push to change the world.

    Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

    He may be reached at


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