With 95 percent of the vote in, socialist candidate François Hollande — tellingly nicknamed Flanby (pudding) by the right and Mr. Normal by himself — is officially France’s new president. He beat heavyweight Nicolas Sarkozy 51.6 to 48.4 percent, which nowadays passes for a resounding win, regardless the country you’re in, and will be inaugurated sometime in the next week or so. Though his Élysée Palace is much more sedate than Sarkozy’s — for one, there will be no Carla Bruni — his foreign policy is likely to be a lot more combative.
And nowhere is that more evident than in what Hollande promised would be his first act as president: to renegotiate the European austerity plan that so defined the last few months of Sarkozy’s close partnership with German chancellor Angela Merkel. (The two have been in such lockstep Europe has taken to calling them Merkozy.) Even though Merkel immediately sent congratulations to Hollande — as did Sarkozy, who conceded mere minutes after the polls closed and reportedly wished his successor “good luck” — their first meeting will be one of adversaries.
He, the newly crowned head of Europe’s anti-austerity revolution. She, the reigning queen of its pro-austerity core. As Hollande said in his victory speech tonight:
In all the capitals … there are people who, thanks to us, are hoping, are looking to us, and want to finish with austerity. You are a movement lifting up everywhere in Europe, and perhaps the world.
As for Merkel, her party just suffered a major defeat in elections in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, a hint that her government may go the way of Sarkozy’s next year. Which means Monsieur Hollande, buoyed by the political wave that is slowly reshaping Europe, may be setting sail into quite friendly waters.