Background: François Hollande (Parti Socialiste)

© Matthieu Riegler, CC-BY

François Hollande won the presidential nomination his career has (long-windedly) been heading for on the 16th November 2011. Until then, he had been the almost-man of the Parti Socialiste; a career formed of shadow junior ministerial posts, then in 2007 an also-ran for the presidential nomination which his ex-partner, Ségolène Royal, won (she lost to Sarkozy, and has been sidelined since as many believe the nomination should not have been hers. Another story.)

Nevertheless, his winning the nomination for 2012 was not a surprise (every politician must have his day, no?), but neither was it planned. At least- not for the 2012 election.

Until late 2011 it was widely assumed that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then director of the International Monetary Fund, would be the Parti Socialiste candidate for the 2012 election. His campaign would hinge on his presenting himself as someone who could save not only France but the Euro from the economic crisis with his strong background in world finance, and a father figure who would save ‘La République’ (and, conveniently, bring home the Presidency for the Parti Socialiste).

Despite the French tradition of looking the other way when politicians’ personal lives are put under the spotlight, multiple rape allegations and a very public arrest in New York was more than the Parti Socialiste was willing to forgive. Martine Aubry emerged as a new option, a ‘mother figure’ for the party (in turmoil), ready to put it back on track, and DSK was mentioned no more. Several candidates emerged; there was a Primary (a French first), featuring, among others, Martine Aubry and François Hollande. The latter had wider party appeal; this was shown as other candidates left the race and gave him their support. Hollande won the Primary with 56%, thereby becoming the Parti Socialiste nominee.  This was excellent news for everyone as Aubry was able to bow out of the competition with grace, accepting the (potentially more powerful) position of ‘Présidente’ of the party, and Hollande thanking her for having been such a worthy opponent.

Lovely story. So François Hollande is the mainstream centre-left candidate, and therefore the one most likely to be the real competition for Sarkozy in the premier tour. But will there be the happy ending the Parti Socialiste are after?

There is no doubt that questions remain over Hollande’s ability to win this election. Hollande announced his candidacy early on, (the Primary had, I suppose, given away his intentions) and made his manifesto clear- a good start, especially considering that the Président has so far been ‘too busy’ to do either.

That said, Président Sarkozy has taken time out of his very busy schedule to publicly criticise his opponent’s lack of foreign policy experience- and you could say, rightly so.

He himself had 5 years as Minister of the Interior under his belt by the time of his candidacy, not something of which Hollande can boast. Given that the man the party were considering ‘the candidate’ was running the IMF, it’s not really surprising that the party had no real experienced back-up candidates. Hollande’s CV reads (essentially) Mayor, First Secretary of the Parti Socialiste for a one-year term, then Presidential candidate- no ministerial experience.

No doubt, Sarkozy’s blows will just keep coming. Hollande, for his part, has enough ‘shock’ figures from Sarkozy’s 5-year Elysée term in his pocket to fight back for a while. He hasn’t used many though. Not yet. He’s kept quiet.

Under favourable conditions, Hollande could win this election. But run the country?

During an economic crisis?

That’s another story.


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