France

François Hollande to take on Sarkozy in 2012 presidentials

Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

François Hollande is to be the Socialist Party candidate in next year’s presidential elections, and opinion polls suggest he could beat incumbent right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy, who will almost certainly stand for a second term.

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In Sunday’s run-off, at the end of two-round primaries, as expected, Hollande beat Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry comfortably, garnering 57 per cent of the vote.

The party is pleased with its selection process: anyone who paid one euro and signed a form professing left-wing sympathies, was eligible to vote.

Nearly 3 million did, and the party also collected thousands of email addresses from voters who chose to leave their details.

Party workers hope to use that information to get out the vote in May for the presidential elections.

But for now, the immediate task is to convey a message of unity within the party, and all the five other contestants Hollande defeated for the nomination were quick to pledge their support last night.

Although they mostly avoided the trap of trading insults during the televised debates, Martine Aubry did allude to Hollande’s lack of ministerial experience, and what she hinted was a lack of political backbone.

Sarkozy’s camp will be quick to exploit these criticisms and are already hinting that he is a novice in a time of major economic difficulties.

Hollande will retaliate by saying that his lack of ministerial experience is an asset and that he represents change.

He campaigned as Mr Normal, projecting an image of a fairly ordinary person who did not have an extravagant lifestyle and understood the needs of his fellow citizens.

He is relatively popular in rural France, where his easy-going style and good sense of humour go down well, but he surprised many with his determined and diligent campaign to win the nomination, which included shedding 10 kilos.

He has promised to introduce stricter rules for financial markets, and to combat unemployment and reduce the cost of healthcare. Most controversially, he has promised to create tens of thousands of posts in schools, without explaining clearly where he would find the money.

He was leader of the Socialist Party before Martine Aubry, who complained loudly when she succeeded him in 2008, that he had left a divided and neglected party.

For 30 years he was the partner of Ségolène Royal, and they have four children together.
She was the Socialist candidate last time around, only to be defeated by Sarkozy.

 

 

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