Would Francois Hollande Really Be a 'Dangerous' French Leader? Apr 30, 2012 1:00 AM EDT
Would he really be a ‘dangerous’ leader?
As France elects a president on Sunday, May 6, it is an enlightening fact that François Hollande, the Socialist frontrunner whose ideas are blasted by right-wing rivals as “dangerous,” is nicknamed for a comfort food, a jiggly caramel custard called Flanby. Affable and funny, Hollande has a bent for consensus politics, which accounts for the dessert sobriquet. (Also, he was doughier before shedding pounds to run for president.) A fiscal-policy nerd elected to Parliament in France’s rural heartland, the 57-year-old Hollande cultivates blandness to show up the excitable incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy. On the trail in February, Hollande spent 12 hours petting cows and kissing babies at Paris’s farm expo without insulting anyone. (President Sarkozy, at the same event in 2008, famously told a heckler, “Get lost, you poor bastard.”) Hollande T-shirts stamped “normal” are for sale at his rallies. In fact Hollande, every bit as much as Sarkozy, is a pure political animal. A shrewd politician groomed for office at Paris’s elite schools (unlike Sarkozy), he was an adviser in François Mitterrand’s Elysée Palace in 1981, when he was only 26. For 11 years, from 1997, he headed the Socialist Party, a post comparable to herding cats. He parlayed a discreet start for the presidential nomination into a decisive primary win, after onetime favorite Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s career-ending arrest last May. Hollande has campaigned virtually gaffe-free. On April 22, he won the election’s first round, the only challenger ever to top an incumbent. Polls give him a wide lead over Sarkozy ahead of Sunday’s final vote. So who’s afraid of François Hollande? Sarkozy has warned of instant market turmoil if Hollande wins. But the social-democrat’s deficit targets echo Sarkozy’s, and many of Hollande’s more radical pitches are softened in the fine print. He wants to hire...
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