Francois Hollande, the leader of France’s Socialist Party, is looking more and more likely to triumph over UMP leader Nicolas Sarkozy in the Presidential election on 22 April.Recent polls from CSA (via WSJ) suggest that Hollande would win 30% of the votes in April, while Sarkozy would win 26%.
More worryingly for Sarko, however, is the figures that show Hollande would win 60% of the votes in a head to head with the UMP leader, part of France’s second round run-off for close elections. 64% of those who would vote for Hollande would do so to make sure Sarkozy would not win, making Sarkozy the most unpopular incumbent president since World War II.
Hollande, who likely only won the Socialist-nomination after Dominique Strauss Kahn’s New York scandal, wasn’t necessarily a likely candidate for French president.
He’s worked for the Socialist party for a number of years, including a spell as Mayor of the small town of Tulle, but has never actually held a government position. Instead, he became known as a man behind the scenes — “l’homme tranquille” or “the quiet man” was his nickname — more known for his ex-wife, who ran for President in Ségolène Royal and lost to Sarkozy.
However, since earning the nomination in October, Hollande has been extremely vocal — he wants to renegotiate the recent EU treaty, drop the retirement age to 60, tax the rich, and has specifically said that his enemy is “the world of finance”.
Crucially, in an interview with Le Monde today, Hollande called for “renegotiation” of the EU treaty pact, specifically the role of the European Court of Justice and the use of EU funds for new growth initiatives.
Sarkozy’s determination to support the euro, the support offered by Angela Merkel, and the loss of France’s coveted AAA rating have made it easy for Hollande to play a populist card and portray him as financially out-of-his-depth and dependent on Germany, or worse yet, fundamentally corrupt.
Hollande even described Sarkozy — privately, in a comment leaked by reporters — as a “sale mec”, which translates directly as “dirty guy” but in practice might be more like “a real piece of work”. Reports that Sarkozy’s election was funded by envelopes stashed with cash and that he was spying on journalists have done nothing to help it, while his quick temper and cruel wit make it easy to paint him as the egomaniac — facing off against the sensible, “quiet man”.
Of course, a Hollande Presidency would be very different for France. His lack of experience, not to mention his appeals to anti-business and anti-Europe populism, have many spooked — Matthew Lynn at MarketWatch has gone so far as saying Hollande will “start [the] next euro crisis”.
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