If Nicolas Sarkozy is the hyperactive hare in the Aesop legend, France’s incoming president, François Hollande, is the proverbial tortoise. History has shown that slow and steady wins the race.
In style and probably in substance, France’s incoming president could not be more different than the country’s outgoing leader.
François Hollande’s political rise to the country’s top post has been slow and steady, with the French media portraying him as “Monsieur Normal” – an easygoing, everyday man. Contrast that with the glamour-struck Nicolas Sarkozy, who earned the nickname “hyper-president” during his five years in office.
In pictures: François Hollande's supporters celebrate in Paris
Tens of thousands of supporters of Socialist candidate Francois Hollande gathered in Place de La Bastille in Paris on Sunday May 6 to hear the election results. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
Hollande’s supporters break open bottles of champagne to celebrate the election of the first Socialist president in France since Francois Mitterand (1981-1995). Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
When incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared on the screens, the crowd in Bastille erupted in indignation. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
Many Socialist supporters carried red roses, the symbol of the Socialist Party. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
Socialist voters celebrate the end of Sarkozy's presidency. The election results were much closer than polls predicted. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
Supporters of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon turned out in numbers to celebrate Sarkozy’s defeat in La Bastille. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
In a festive atmosphere at Place de la Bastille, many of Hollande’s supporters enjoyed lampooning the outgoing president. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
One of Nicolas Sarkozy’s more infamous quotes “casse-toi pauv’ con” (“piss off, jerk”) was used against him as news of his defeat came through. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
The last time the Socialists celebrated a presidential victory was in 1988. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
Many of Hollande’s supporters still couldn't believe that there candidate actually won. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
Singer Yannick Noah takes to the stage before the results are announced. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
Banners were supplied to the crowd by national weekly news magazine L’Express. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
The president-elect arrived at Place de la Bastille at 12.30am, having come from Tulle, the capital of the Correze region, where Hollande, as head of the regional council, first celebrated his victory. Photo © Mehdi Chebil.
If Hollande’s victory has a fabled quality, it surely mirrors Aesop’s “The Hare and The Tortoise”, with the steady, shelled creature finally outpacing the hyperactive hare.
International audiences are probably more familiar with his former partner, Ségolène Royal, who unsuccessfully ran against Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential poll. For those who knew him during the 2012 campaign trail – and that includes his comrades on the left – Hollande was the butt of snide, if good-natured, monikers, including “Flanby” (a wobbly custard) and “capitaine du pedalo,’ or the captain of a pedal boat.
But in the course of his bid for presidency, Hollande emerged as a statesman-like figure, a change that included an image makeover, complete with a 10 kilo weight loss and designer glasses.
In substance, the transformation was apparent during the only televised debate of the 2012 presidential campaign, when the 57-year-old Socialist politician exuded confidence as he sat back and took on a pugnacious, finger-jabbing Sarkozy.
Catholic upbringing, education in prestigious institutions
HOLLANDE: A LIFE IN PICTURES
In this May 1981 photograph, a young François Hollande heads to the Paris stock exchange while he worked in the French Court of Audit shortly after graduating. (Photo: AFP)
François Hollande is all ears as Dominique Strauss-Kahn (left), then president of the French Commission of Finances, holds forth during a June 1990 report on capital taxation. (Photo: AFP)
As head of the Socialist Party, Hollande debated Nicolas Sarkozy in May 1999 during an EU parliamentary debate. (Photo: AFP)
Following Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin’s shocking defeat in the first round of the 2002 presidential race, Jospin resigned from politics, making Hollande the public face of a party past its prime. (Photo: AFP)
In this August 2004 picture, Socialist leader François Hollande is about to kiss his partner, president of the Poitou Charentes region Segolène Royal, following his speech at the 12th Summer Socialist party forum in La Rochelle, western France. (Photo: AFP)
As deputy of the Corrèze region, François Hollande has a word with former French culture minister and fellow Socialist Jack Lang in parliament in April 2004. (Photo: AFP)
Socialist Party chief François Hollande shares a laugh with fellow Socialist politicians in parliament in January 2004. (Photo: AFP)
Hollande meets Druze and Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt during a 2005 visit of EU delegates to Lebanon. (Photo: AFP)
As Socialist Party leader, François Hollande delivers a speech during a campaign rally for his then partner, Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal in April 2007. The couple separated shortly after the 2007 poll. (Photo: AFP)
In June 2008, then French President Nicolas Sarkozy introduced Socialist Party chief François Hollande to his Lebanese counterpart Michel Sleiman at Beirut airport.
In this February 2005 picture, then Spanish PM Jose Luis Zapatero and then Socialist Party chief François Hollande greet supporters of the European Union constitutional referendum in Madrid.
François Hollande and his current partner, Valerie Trierweiler, a political journalist, greet the crowd at his presidential victory celebration in the heart of Paris. (Photo: AFP)
Hollande’s easy-going nature, however, belies a determination he maintained over a 30-year political career that has seen him serve as Socialist Party boss, a small town mayor and leader of an administrative region in central France.
Born into a middle class family in the northern French city of Rouen, Hollande’s mother, Nicole, was a social worker and his father, Georges, a medical doctor. An authoritative father, Georges was once a far-right candidate in a local election. Hollande was much closer to his mother, a former Socialist militant. While the family name “Hollande” is believed to come from Calvinist ancestors who escaped the Netherlands, Hollande was brought up as a Catholic.
Unlike Sarkzoy, Hollande’s educational background mirrors that of France’s political elites. After graduating from one of the country’s foremost business schools, Hollande won admission to France’s prestigious Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris. Known by its acronym, ENA, the Paris-based school has traditionally supplied France’s political elites.
It was during his time at ENA that Hollande met Ségolène Royal, who would be his partner for the next 30 years. The couple had four children together.
France’s high-flying power couple
Hollande started his political career as a student volunteer for François Mitterrand’s unsuccessful 1974 presidential bid. By the time Mitterrand was elected to the Elysée presidential palace in 1981, Hollande had become a special adviser to the newly-elected Socialist president, before serving as a staffer for the government's spokesman.
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His political stints included representative of the central Corrèze region and mayor of the town of Tulle. Meanwhile, his partner, Royal, went on to serve as Environment Minister in 1992, as the duo turned into the epitome of the high-flying power couple.
While attention was focused on Royal as she entered the national political stage, Hollande chose to climb the Socialist party ranks. In 1997 he became party leader, a position he retained following Lionel Jospin’s 2002 unsuccessful bid for the presidency.
Those were difficult days for the party and Hollande was seen as a quiet, dependable figure taking over the party reins – a role he played during Royal’s 2007 bid for the presidency.
But his partner’s presidential campaign put a noticeable strain on the relationship, and shortly after Royal’s defeat to Sarkozy the couple announced their separation.
Hollande’s girlfriend, Valerie Trierweiler, a political journalist, is widely seen as an asset to the presidential ticket.
But Hollande himself was not viewed as a Socialist presidential candidate until front-runner Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief and Socialist frontrunner, was arrested in New York in May 2011 on sexual assault charges, effectively ending Strauss-Kahn’s presidential hopes.
In October 2011, Hollande won the French Socialist primary, becoming the party’s candidate to run against Sarkzoy. The rest, as they say, is history.
Date created : 2012-05-07