France bids adieu to Monsieur Sarkozy

By John J. Metzler ,Special to The China Post

UNITED NATIONS — Tone, tenor, and style separate Nicolas Sarkozy from Francois Hollande as much as clear political ideology divided the two contenders for the French presidency. But sentiments like voter discontent, backlash and anti-austerity describe the mood French voters were in when they elected the Socialist candidate. Francois Hollande’s victory with 52 percent of the vote compared to 48 percent for the incumbent, returns the Socialists to the Elysee Palace (White House) for the first time in 17 years. Sarkozy becomes the latest leader voted out of office resulting from collateral damage from the economic recession. But the euphoria of Hollande’s victory may soon fade as reality intervenes; first from the yet undecided results of the National Assembly elections in June, and equally from the undertow of recession. Sarkozy was the energizer bunny of French politics, a peripatetic and dynamic leader who was blindsided by the global economic recession and confronted by the rumbling crisis of the Euro currency. Despite these constraints, Sarkozy enacted some positive economic reforms as well as reorientation of foreign policy. President-elect Hollande, known as Mr. Normal, is a clam, cautious, and near-passionless speaker who won in the second round of the elections by cobbling together a coalition of his Socialists and the hard left including the communists. Hollande emerged from elitist schools and shall strive to be a tireless technocrat. His victory was based less on reciting the socialist dogma than being of the anti-Sarkozy candidate, the anti-bling-bling, anti-austerity man.

Though moderate and less polarizing by standards of the Socialist party, Hollande nonetheless remains in debt to the hard left which got him elected. Hollande’s victory represents less of a lurch to the left as much as the pendulum swing of politics where the Socialists have not held the presidency since 1995.

Markets rumbled, but the danger comes not from fear of nationalizations but of mismanaging and misjudging a deep-seated European economic malaise and making it worse through the tempting elixir of massive government spending.