Politics Member States

France : François Hollande, the dream and the reality

7 May 2012
Libération Paris

A poster of François Hollande, Paris, the end of April

A poster of François Hollande, Paris, the end of April

The Socialist candidate has become President of France with 51.62% of the vote, beating Nicolas Sarkozy. The leftist daily Liberation, which sees the outcome as a wager on the future, greets it with “great joy”. Faced with the crisis, though, the honeymoon may be short.

Joy. The immense joy. At seeing a closing parenthesis end a sentence, at feeling a curse lift. And how! François Mitterrand, it turns out, was no historical anomaly, but the first leftist president. Now there is a second – François Hollande. For those on the left, 2012 revives 1981 and breathes life and colour back into those aged, sepia images that had seemed doomed to the history books, to becoming intimate memories of the old or of the kids that some of us were at that time. The year 2012 also soothes the burn, the wound, of April 21, 2002. Ten years on from that night, the trauma of having seen the French left wiped from the political landscape has been healed.

What does it mean, to vote for the left? It means that, despite the individualism of societies today, there is a “we”. That notions like justice, equality, sharing and solidarity can and should organise public life. Like these institutions and public goods, created by the National Council of Resistance, that existed before us and, having shaped us, will survive us. It is possible, therefore, to go against the values ​​of the times and, instead of following the natural downward slope, to revive what brings us together, to listen to the little voice that speaks inside us all, and to live our lives not solely to defend our private domains. In a damaged France, which could have made the choice to barricade itself behind borders of fantasy, rehashing its past, François Hollande’s victory shows that the country has chosen hope, that it has looked ahead and not behind.

Let us savour this moment when a people decides to make that choice – and to look to the future.  Such is now the task facing François Hollande. To fix the country, of course. To remake society, obviously. To reduce the inequalities of fate among the French, whoever they are and wherever they come from. But for this to happen: to shape, above all, the future. To show that France is not just heritage, history, past grandeur, but that it can also be projected into the future and reinvent itself. We must begin to write on this blank page – worrying in many ways, inspiring in many others – decisively, imperatively, not to betray the voters and this still evident confidence in the ability of politics to change things, if not life itself. The work has just begun, and tomorrow will be tough. But today: be happy, and live fully this merry month of May.