Paris: François Hollande volunteered to work for France's first Socialist President, François Mitterand as a young student 38 years ago. 57-year-old Hollande is the second Socialist President of the Fifth Republic. Former centre right President Jacques Chirac once called him Mitterand's "labrador". There's no dearth of unflattering epithets he has earned during his career, but time and again he has shown that he has mettle. For more than a decade now the Socialist Party had become a group of bickering political heavy weights - the French called it "a party of old elephants" fighting against each other. But this time, they put their differences aside to back Hollande who has finally brought France's "moderate left" back into the French political scene. Dominique Strauss Kahn, embroiled in sex scandals, got out of the race paving the way for Hollande as the party's chosen candidate. He also got an additional boost with the anti-Sarkozy sentiment peaking in France. A majority of the French find his style reassuring and ideas refreshing. His biggest challenge now will be to live up to these expectations.
Here's your 10-point cheatsheet on France's new President.
1. François Hollande is the second Socialist President of the current and fifth French Republic which was constituted in 1958. The last French Socialist President was François Mitterand, well known for the abolition of capital punishment in 1981.
2. Mr Hollande wants to change the way Europe tackles the sovereign debt crisis. He believes harsh austerity is not the only solution. He says France and all of Europe should make efforts to spur growth. His position is the antithesis of the German position that would like to see countries like Greece practice rigour in exchange of bailouts. Mr Hollande believes Italy, Spain and Greece will be relieved that France will ask for a renegotiation of the European treaty that demands austerity from EU member states. The treaty was reached after joint efforts made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, France's outgoing President. The Sarkozy-Merkel team was often called "Merkozy". The Franco-German "couple" will now be renamed "Merkollande"
3. Riding on an anti-Sarkozy wave, Mr Hollande promised to become a "normal president." His campaign slogan was "Change-is now". Towards the end of a hectic electoral campaign he was seen buying his groceries in a supermarket. He has vowed to slap a 75% fine on those earning more than million euros in France. He also believes the excesses of the financial markets should be controlled. During the campaign, he accused Nicolas Sarkozy of being the President of the rich. Hollande himself is a graduate of France's top elite school for officials called ENA (Ecole Nationale d'Administration). He also went to Europe's number one business school HEC. He was the First Secretary of the Social Party for 11 years.
4. François Hollande says he will not encourage divisive politics. In his first speech as President he said "No child of the Republic will be abandoned... or discriminated against". He said citizens of immigrant origin were an asset for France. There have been several rap scores and videos made with his speeches. He was seen travelling on suburban trains. He is a big favourite now in France's poor suburbs where a large population of people of North African muslim origins is concentrated.
5. Education will be one of Mr Hollande's top priority. He says he will create more than 60,000 jobs in the french national education system. His critics say this will add to public spending. Hollande says he wants to come to the rescue of France's youth. In his first speech after winning the election he said he wants to work for "jeunesse and justice" (youth and justice). He wants to work towards making "French dream" come true "so that our children lead a better life than ours"
6. "Justice" is a word that figures a lot in his speeches. Mr Hollande favours same sex marriage and adoption by homosexual couples. He wants to legalise a form of euthanisia. He even spoke of a Ministry for Women's rights. Foreigners living in France he says, should be able to participate in municipal elections.
7. Mr Hollande is known for his sense of humour. His supporters say it's his secret weapon- he doesn't look like he could make people laugh but he does. His critics on the other hand find this quality irksome. They call him "Mr Little Jokes"
8. Mr Hollande spent 22 years with his companion Segolène Royale who was Nicolas Sarkozy's rival in the last Presidential elections in 2007. They were still together when she was campaigning. Royal went upto the second round but was defeated by Mr Sarkozy. Soon after, Mr Hollande and Ms Royal were separated. His current companion is Valerie Trierweiler, a french journalist. Trierweiler was asked to quit political reporting after her association with Mr Hollande became known.
9. His rivals and even his own party members have often underestimated him. Mr Sarkozy is supposed to have described him as "useless" and "incompetent". He has often been criticised for lacking charisma. But Hollande came across as a cool yet combative orator in the televised debate against Mr Sarkozy. Mr Hollande worked on weigh loss regime to shed 20 kgs for this campaign.
10. Mr Hollande is likely to support India's permanent membership bid to the UNSC and believes the IMF chief should not be only an from Europe or America. Expected to take office in a little over a week, Hollande's first foreign trip as President is likely to be Germany. He is also going to meet Obama at the G8 summit with barely 2-3 days of taking office. He will also be in Chicago for the NATO summit.
Story first published:
May 07, 2012 16:10 IST