Tulle market reacts to new French president

Watching Francois Hollande moving around the rural market of Tulle in central France, one can see how the president-elect has won over Middle France.


    Deep in rural France, the market stalls are laid out and an elderly man remarks: "We produce good mushrooms here. And presidents, too."

    This is Tulle, in the Correze Department, once the national fiefdom of right-wing leader Jacques Chirac. 

    At first sight, it is a place that hasn't got a lot of character.  

    A little like Francois Hollande, one might say, when the president-elect was striving to make Socialist inroads here more than 30 years ago, and eventually succeeded. 

    Not only that, Hollande has defied the skeptics who would never have guessed that one Saturday in the future he'd be strolling around the Tulle market stalls, preparing to be elected president of France the following day.  

    He tasted the local fare, kissed the babies and the ladies, and shook hands with ruddy faced men, one of whom pointed to his fresh chicken, insisting he could do a good deal in supplying the Elysee Palace. 

    One thing was striking: Monsieur Hollande was not just going through the motions of a media photo opportunity. He was truly interested in other people's lives.

    He happily obliged to offer a few words in English: "It is very important for me to have links with the people," he told me. "I have to say that I love the people and I suppose now that people love me."

    With a beaming smile, he then made a purposeful move towards another stall with a spread of local delicacies.

    This was a fairly relaxed Hollande, wandering around with lax security. It won't be like this anymore. 

    Another striking aspect of the people he was meeting was that none were ardent socialists. 

    Hollande has indeed connected with the people, not just here, but in many parts of the country. He's won over Middle France. Fed up with Nicolas Sarkozy and taken in by Hollande's depiction of his rival as "President of the rich."

    There's no doubt that Sarkozy under-estimated his opponent. 

    Once again, the next day, as the polls are a few hours away from closing it was the ordinary folk with their families out in force. Not red-flag waving, but people taken in by what they see as politics with more compassion. 

    Hollande kept the crowds waiting through rain and sunshine, strutting through the town square at dusk. 

    His victory speech was well measured and, for a man styling himself as Mr Normal, it had some real passion about it. 

    Is he using the old political trick of laying on the sweeteners, landing the goods, and then diluting it all?

    Hollande will have to deliver on the promises. But expect the pragmatic social democrat logic of this man to balance many issues out. 

    For example, the promise of 60,000 new teachers in five years. Behind that headline is a promise not to increase the net spend on public-sector jobs. That implies cuts elsewhere. 

    And consider this recent move: in Correze Council, the provincial council of which he is president, Hollande has cut free school buses and raised taxes because of public debts. 

    Those close to him have said he isn't a tax-and-spend socialist. 

    Even so, he is at the helm of a party that hasn't embraced reform. And there are plenty in the left who will resist a sellout. 

    While his stance on Europe is capturing the public mood in France, he'll have to be extremely shrewd and careful in how he settles the Fiscal Compact talks with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

    If feasible a smart looking settlement on growth with reduced austerity may look like a clever move. Yet, he must be careful it doesn't unravel in a damaging split with Berlin. 

    It has been a slow, methodical job getting this far. Now, Hollande has to move quickly. 

    There is no more time for testing the popular mood in Tulle's market any more.

    It is now the turn of global financial markets to judge President Francois Hollande. 

    And they'll come down on him quickly if he disrupts the eurozone and fails to balance the books at home.

    Click here to follow Andrew Simmons on Twitter: @simmjazeera



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