Francois Hollande who tonight won the French presidency seventeen years after the end of the Mitterrand presidency, has been a party insider for his entire career. A graduate of three major post-graduate schools - political, business and administration - he has never held high elected office, but is in the words of the French English language channel a household word in France.
The fact that Hollande had four children with another French Socialist leader, Segolene Royale without marrying her, shows that at least on a personal level, he lives his convictions. He is expected to continue his current relationship while inhabiting the Elysee Palace, something the American right will surely seize upon.
Astonishingly, the well-known Washington Post columnist and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for international commentaries confessed tonight that he has no idea who Francois Hollande really is. For someone who spent considerable time in France, this is either shocking - or an illustration of American indifference to socialist leaders.
For the rest of the world, the most significant thing about Hollande’s election is his determination to re-roll back the center-right rollback of Francois Mitterrand’s social measures, and to work on better integration of France's Muslim population. Significantly, the flags of France's ex-North African colonies, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, can be seen floatingat the post-election rally in Place de la Bastille, where one could hear the typical throaty celebratory cry.
With Europe in full-blown economic crisis, Hollande will confront German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her determination to impose more austerity measures than pro-growth policies. Already, on France 24, pundits are criticizing his agenda, especially those associated with British or American institutions.
One French commentator noted that he and President Obama have similar social agendas, which isn’t doing the American President any favors.
What happens in the coming months in a country where the extreme right-wing National Front received 18% of the vote in the first round of this election should be of particular interest to the American Occupy Movement: Having finally succeeded in bringing American labor to celebrate May 1st as the internationally recognized workers’ holiday, its next task will be to make the French battle to reinstate the left’s social policies an example to its followers.