The French head to the polls tomorrow to decide between President Nicolas Sarkozy and challenger François Hollande, a Socialist which is turning into a vote about Europe’s austerity plans. The Washington Post writes:
At stake was not only France’s approach to dealing with dangerously high debts that have undermined faith in the euro, the European Union’s common currency, and raised doubts about the union’s economic stability. Hollande’s candidacy also constituted a challenge to the E.U.’s insistence — led by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany — that the deficits and debts must be whittled down across the continent even if the price is more unemployment and economic stagnation.
The London Telegraph has an interesting profile of Hollande which documents the trouble he has had trying to get to this position, actually running for the President of the Republic.
At no time was this more humiliating than in the run up to the 2007 presidential election, when his own partner Ségolène Royal, mother of his four children, effectively stabbed him in the back.
Ever since graduating from the elite civil service college the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, there had been a tacit agreement between the power couple, who were taken under the first ever Socialist president François Mitterrand’s wing, that Mr Hollande would be the one to bid for the ultimate office in France.
In the event, Miss Royal, riding what turned out to be an illusory wave of popularity, did not step aside as Mr Hollande had assumed she would. (Maybe because he was reportedly already involved with the woman now at his side, journalist Valerie Trierweiler.)
Even his children took their mother’s side as, five years ago, Miss Royal stood – unsuccessfully – against Nicolas Sarkozy, and Mr Hollande was shuffled off to a political wilderness.
But each time he has suffered defeats and disappointments, Mr Hollande has bounced back, and done so with a smile.
A columnist who covers polling for The Guardian is predicting a Hollande win. The New York Times also writes about another election taking place in Europe on Sunday, the Greek elections. It will be interesting to see over the next weeks and months how the results in both Greece and France affect the European Union, the Euro and the world economy.