5 Things You Need to Know About François Hollande
Here's what you should know about the possible new president of France.
This Sunday, France will hold the first round of its presidential elections. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with how the French system works, in the first round, voters are free to choose any candidate who is running. After this round, voters will have to decide again between the top two finishers in a run-off, scheduled for May 6, to see who will become the French president.
The incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy represents the Union for a Popular Movement, and he faces challenges from the center-left Socialist Party's François Hollande, the far-right National Front's Marine Le Pen, the centrist Democratic Movement's François Bayrou, the newly-founded Left Party's Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and five other very low polling candidates.
Current polling indicates the two men likely to top the first round of polls are Sarkozy and Hollande. Indeed, polls are indicating that Hollande will be able to easily defeat Sarkozy in the second round and become the new French president, as French citizens are putting the blame for France's stagnating economy on Sarkozy's shoulders.
1. Hollande is quite literally the antithesis of Sarkozy.
The glamorpuss wife, the macho posture, the frenetic outbursts -- all of these factors defined Sarkozy's public image. And Hollande is the opposite of all of that. The 57-year-old projects a sense of tranquility and, according to his staff, never loses his temper. On the campaign trail, he has not gotten flustered even in the face of fierce verbal assaults from Sarkozy, even though some of his supporters wish he would let loose and lash out at the incumbent (Hollande did describe Sarkozy as "a cross between Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin," an image he did not intend to be flattering).
Also, while Sarkozy sports a $72,000 gold Patek Philippe watch, Hollande still wears what The Guardian describes as a "modest wrist-watch." As recently as this January, he was still traveling around Paris in a down-to-earth three-wheel scooter, which had one Socialist Party member worried that he came across more as a pizza delivery man than the next president.
The Guardian also reports that Hollande was quoted as telling a magazine that he liked being a nice guy "because in the films, the bad guys always lose." Judging from current polling results, he certainly made the right decision.
2. Hollande is emulating the 2008 Barack Obama campaign strategy.
No, Hollande has not embarked on a "Oui, Nous Pouvons" campaign, complete with an iconic "Espoir" poster. What Hollande's campaign advisors learned from Obama's run is a lot more grounded. Guillaume Liegey, Arthur Muller, and Vincent Pons, members of the Socialist Party, were in the US in 2008 and witnessed how the Obama campaign was able to successfully mobilize voters to the voting booth, Slate reports.
Specifically, Hollande's team employed a door-to-door tactic that was seldom used in Europe, paying particular attention to precincts that received little political attention, such as immigrant communities that might have felt politically alienated.
"To win an election, it is often more efficient to mobilize voters from one's own camp at risk of abstaining than it would be to try to persuade the undecided or voters on the other side into voting for you," Liegey and his colleagues wrote in a Socialist Party internal report. The Hollande campaign targets reaching five million homes through door-to-door visits.
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