Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bonjour, Monsieur Hollande: The French Presidential Elections

by Mike Nelson


In the French elections panel on October 1, one of the panelists noted that former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was called a “hyper” president. I know what you’re thinking: ce n’est pas possible! With the so-called ‘Merkozy’ relationship between Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and even an Internet Meme site that plasters Sarkozy’s face onto important historical images, the former president certainly created some entertainment.

A precious 'Merkozy' moment.

The goal of the panel was to determine if the results of the recent French presidential elections matter. I think that subject is too vague; how do we determine what matters, and what is the importance of mattering? The panelists considered the question from historical and political perspectives. I propose that all elections matter, which I would have guessed is not a controversial declaration. However, the panelists argued that many elections do not matter, either because elections are just a part of the democratic process or because one person will not make a difference in important matters, such as the European financial crisis.

A special reason why this specific election matters is because President François Hollande is a member of the Socialist Party. He is the first Socialist to be elected president since François Mitterrand. It cannot be a coincidence that as the euro crisis continues, France decides to return to socialism. Hollande’s viewpoints will influence the entire European Union’s handling of bailouts, bonds, and other austerity measures. Already, Hollande has requested changes to the EU’s newest budget treaty, although panelists discussed how he originally promised to revise the treaty line-by-line.

This election, I think, could be the beginning of many changes in Europe and the EU. I question if Angela Merkel will be the next leader to be rejected by a growingly euroskeptic public. Constituents are demonstrating their unhappiness with the financial crisis, and they want new leadership to fix the problems. If the French have made such a drastic decision as a return to socialism, it is plausible that fellow Europeans will decide to take action, too. Europeans may not approve of the EU, but they may decide to participate more in order to prevent future crises. For example, a euroskeptic political party, Europe of Freedom & Democracy, already exists and has several MEPs in the European Parliament.

In comparison to Sarkozy and his occasional goofy antics, Hollande should represent French better on the world stage and to the French themselves. I doubt that we will see any pictures of Hollande dancing with Merkel anytime soon. Hollande has now been in office several months, and we are now getting a better picture of his administration. Case in point, he has remained committed to pulling French troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2012. The question remains regarding how much the elections matter. Before we know it, we will need to apply this question to the German elections in 2013.

Mike Nelson is a first year MAEUS student. He graduated a year early and received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012. Mike has studied French, German, and Spanish and will be tackling Swedish starting this fall. He has traveled to Germany and hosted a French foreign exchange student. During the summer, he works as a manager at a water park. He is working as a Graduate Assistant and Teaching Assistant for the European Union Center this year.

Photo Credits:

1. (c)2012 Jean-Marc Ayrault, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en
2. (c)2009 Sebastian Zwez, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en

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