Americans know little about French political life, and many readers may be to young to have been aware of the 1981 French Presidential election which brought the socialists to power for the first time since the the late nineteen fifties.
Francois Mitterrand’s election was greeted with the same euphoria as Francois Hollande’s, and the bouquet of red roses presented to Hollande upon his victory was a clear reference to the symbol of the Socialist Party under Mitterrand.
Although Mitterrand served two seven year terms, during which many social programs were enacted, his presidency is remembered as the caviar left.
If Francois Hollande is to garner a different reputation, he will have to continue as Mr. Normal, his chosen nickname. That shouldn’t be too difficult: until now he has zipped around Paris in a three-wheeled scooter, and is reported to never have worn smart suits, even when he was a graduate student at the posh National School of Administration.
Hollande’s three degrees – administration, politics, economy – having made him a policy wonk, they should serve him well as he launches his campaign to bring Europe back from the brink, opposing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s insistence on austerity.
Francois Mitterrand was elected at the end of the growth period known as the Thirty Glorious Years. For sure, life for his socialist successor will not be a bed of roses.