There will be no hundred days of grace for Francois Hollande.European stocks fell sharply on Monday as markets reacted to hiselectoral victory and German Chancellor Angela Merkel made it clearthat she will not accept any dilution of the EU's fiscal disciplinepact that Mr. Hollande has promised to renegotiate in order toinclude a "growth clause". Mr. Hollande faces many challenges, not least the next deadline onMay 16 when France has to raise money for its debt servicing.Despite the downgrading of its AAA status, France has been able toborrow at reasonably low interest rates. Will jittery markets allowhim to continue doing so? Mr. |
Hollande has several top-levelmeetings coming up, the G20 in June and the NATO summit where hewill be at pains to explain to his partners why France will bringback its troops from Afghanistan a whole year early — at theend of 2012 — when every military expert has told him it isan unrealistic deadline. But on the night of his election these niggling thoughts wereburied away as people gathered in their thousands at the Bastille— the symbol par excellence of the French Revolution and,closer in time, of Francois Mitterrand's historic win in 1981 after38 years of conservative rule. Last night, the Champs-Elysees, the world's most famous avenue, wasjammed with people celebrating Francois Hollande's historic winover outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy. But these revellers hadnone of the chic of your usual "champs" stroller.
Thesewere young men — often Arab and African — packed tightinto battered cars, waving both French and the Algerian flags asthey hooted and drove down the Champs to the Place de la Concorde,up to the Arc de Triomphe and then back down again. These young men had not thought it fit to go to the Bastille, thesymbol of the French Revolution where the victorious Socialistsgathered to savour their triumph and where Francois Hollandedelivered a speech at one a.m. calling for a unified France. Suchhas been the collective sigh of relief heaved by France's largeAfrican-origin and Arab community that its more demonstrativemembers felt they had to show their sense of triumph and theirsense of belonging to France by taking over this bit of real estateusually reserved for tourists and the super rich. "I am waving both flags.
That's because I belong to bothcountries, both nations. You can say I am bilingual, bi-cephale andthat I have two hearts that beat simultaneously — one forAlgeria and the other for France," said Mehmet, a 20-year-oldstudent from Nanterre, a Parisian suburb. "Today I feelFrance has freed herself from the curse of Sarkozy. But now we mustbe vigilant about what happens in the legislative polls.
I am notashamed of my double culture, quite the opposite, and it is onlywhen the French are able to accept that one can have manyidentities and be true to all of them that we can moveforward." But several passers-by commented on the wisdom of flying both flagsto celebrate a victory that was essentially French. "Just seehow the National Front is gong to take this. I can just hear theirtide of invective. Why give Front more grounds to spread its hatemessage?" asked a woman in her fifties. But Mr.
Mehmet was delighted with Mr. Hollande's opening promises."I wished to be judged on two issues: youth and justice.There is only one France now, the Republic, where every person willbe treated equally," the President-elect declared at Tulle,his home constituency. Mr. Mehmet and his friends have been trying to get others living insuburban ghettoes (where France in 2005 witnessed its worst riotsin decades) to go out and vote. The one subject that has beenmissing from this campaign has been the four-million-plus people,mostly immigrants packed into urban wastelands, often treated asthe detritus of society.
"We don't count because people of immigrant origin do notvote. Islam is a subject only in the negative sense because as acommunity we have remained voiceless. We are all French citizens.We must use our franchise. That will give us the power to make adifference.
I hope Hollande and many of us have backed him will nowback us," Mr. Mehmet said.
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