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Inside Story
France: A new political era
Is Francois Hollande, the French president-elect, up to the challenges facing his country and Europe?
Last Modified: 08 May 2012 09:23

France has elected its first Socialist president in 17 years - a boost to the Left on a continent that has been gradually swinging to the Right.

"Definitely Francois Hollande is a reasonable, low-profile man who won't be as showy, as arrogant as Nicolas Sarkozy could have been in the past .... We were fed up with Sarkozy's personality and style."

- Christian Mallard, a political commentator

Francois Hollande's message - that the German insistence on austerity must be tempered with plans to stimulate growth - helped propel him to victory.

But he will be watched closely by the rest of the eurozone and must act quickly to reassure eurozone leaders that he can play a role in handling the challenges Europe faces.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the outgoing president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, sang the same tune on government spending. Hollande's approach is quite different and his appointment will alarm some.

"Europe is looking at us," the French president-elect told his supporters. "And when the result was made public, I'm sure that in many countries in Europe it was relief, hope, the idea that at last austerity would be no longer be seen us unavoidable."

But as France awoke to this new political dawn, there was excitement and anxiety in equal measure. Hollande won the election by a narrow margin - little more than 1.1 million votes separated him from Sarkozy - and there will be no honeymoon period for him to enjoy.

"He [Hollande] is the embodiment of fairness and decency according to his campaign, of reasonableness and of social justice. How different will that be from Sarkozy remains to be seen. I think what we are going to see in the coming weeks and months is just a slight balancing of the scales."

- Eric Pape a political commentator

"He will need to reassure the French people and investors that they can trust him, that his plans will boost growth and not harm recovery," says Al Jazeera's Emma Hayward in Paris.

But while staggering public debt and high unemployment will guarantee that France's economic problems become Hollande's top priority, he also faces some other policy challenges.

Immigration was a heated election issue and Hollande promised to adopt some tough measures - policies he will now have to implement if he is to keep those on the Right happy.

And foreign policy will also be a key concern, with France's relationship with NATO and the US, as well as the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, all high on the agenda.

So, can Francois Hollande tackle the challenges facing his country and Europe? And what will his priorities be?

Inside Story, with presenter Teymoor Nabili, discusses with guests: Christian Mallard, a senior foreign analyst for France Television; Eric Pape, a political commentator and contributor to Newsweek Magazine; and Ansgar Belke, an economist at the German Institute of Economic Research.


FACTS:

  • Francois Hollande's inauguration will take place on May 15
  • Hollande is the first Socialist president in 17 years
  • He has said that his first priority will be to unite France
  • Hollande has promised to reduce the country's deficit and bring debt under control
  • France has not balanced its budget for over 30 years
  • Hollande says he will shift the focus from austerity to creating growth
  • The French unemployment rate is at 10% - its highest in 12 years 
  • Sarkozy is the first French president not to win a second term since 1981
  • Sarkozy is the 11th European leader to have been voted out of power since 2008
  • Hollande wants higher taxes on big corporations and the most wealthy
  • Following Hollande's win, the euro fell below $1.30 in early trading
Source:
Al Jazeera
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