Socialist Party candidate François Hollande was elected President of France May 6th. He succeeds the boisterously aristocratic Nicolas Sarkozy, the Republican right party candidate. Hollande is the first lefty president since François Mitterrand, who was elected in 1981, and he has promised to bring change in France. He wants to stand apart from Sarkozy, who, with his his arrogance and his NYPD t-shirts, the media flustered throughout the five years of his self-proclaimed "normal presidency."
We were curious to find out what this infamously normal presidency looked like at its close, so we went to the inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, May 15th, when traditionally the outgoing president gives the keys to the Elysée keys to his successor and everyone gathers to say goodbye. Very few people showed up. The whole area surrounding the Elysée and the Avenue des Champs-Élysées was closed to traffic and an impressive number of cops were controlling the zone. We talked our way in and asked French bystanders their opinions about Nicolas Sarkozy being the most hated president of the 5th Republic.
Juliette, 22, English student
Who did you vote for?
François Hollande, both rounds.
What will you remember of Sarkozy’s presidency?
Lots of failures, a very bad record. It’s time he goes away. I barely understand why people came to thank him.
Why were you annoyed with him?
He gave himself a pay raise just after he became president. François Hollande has promised to do the opposite.
Do you hate Sarkozy?
Yes, I think so.
Pierre, 21, business student (right), and his cousin Clément, 21, law student (middle). Next to them, Mathilde, a friend.
What’s your opinion on these five years of Sarkozy’s tenure?
Clément: An amazing energy: He executed 900 reformations over his five-year term. He kept France’s head above water during the crisis.
Pierre: He was victim of public sentiment called "anti-Sarkozysm" during the campaign. All of us are a bit disappointed he wasn’t re-elected, but we won’t forget him. History books will prove him right.
OK, you don’t seem to hate him then. Do you remember one good thing in particular?
Pierre: I quite liked it when he managed to stay firm and gave Angela Merkel his opinion on Europe. I also quite liked what he did for Libya.
What are you expecting from the five-year term of Hollande?
Clément: Not a lot. If he keeps his promises, we’re in deep shit–he has such bad ideas. But I don’t think he’s gonna do anything, he’s a kind of a lazy Jacques Chirac, he won’t do the slightest fucking thing.
Lionel, 40, unprofessional filmmaker
Sarkozy’s departure seems to make you happy.
Actually, I used to believe in Sarkozy. At the very beginning. But the thing is, he had dinner at Fouquet’s restaurant the night he was elected, and he was on Bolloré’s yacht the following three days. He didn’t even shake hands with the football players during the French Cup. He got rid of the annual Élysée Palace Garden Party 'cause he hates being around real people. He also made his private life a matter of choice for tabloids. He was a terrible ambassador for the French reputation.
What do you expect from Hollande?
I didn’t really vote for him. I voted against Sarkozy. I hope he'll keep a low profile, govern in a more dignified way. And I really would like him to relaunch the annual Elysée’s Garden Party. France isn’t the United States, the media doesn’t have all the power.
Aurélie, 51, Psycho-sociologist
What did you hate most about Sarkozy?
His arrogance. He’s been praising the rejection of others all along.
What made you most upset with him?
When he said, “Get lost, you bastard.” You don’t say that. A president, or even just a politician, can’t say that. I just wish I could’ve punched him in the face!
What do you expect from the next five years with Hollande?
Change. He’s gonna do everything, and we’re gonna help him. We were really pissed off with Sarkozy.
Aude, 25, future teacher
Why do you hate Sarkozy?
I’m directly concerned with his complete lack of respect for my future profession. I’ve been doing internships in different schools, and without any particular training, I was sent to teach in the worst ghettos you could imagine, around Paris. Those schools are full of inexperienced people, whereas it should be the opposite.
Do you have hope for our new president?
Totally. Even if it’s gonna be complicated. Sarkozy really fucking messed up everywhere, especially with the teachers, and I really hope that Hollande will fix it.
Paul, 20, engineering school student
What are you up to?
I am here by chance. I’m just coming back home from school, so I thought, “Why not?” and I came here to see Hollande. There aren’t a lot of people here. I didn’t even vote for him.
You’re not a Sarkozy hater?
He wasn’t that bad. But he wasn’t really loved, and he didn’t do much for us. He managed to handle the crisis, which wasn’t an easy thing. Now we’ll see if Hollande has the balls to do better. ‘Cause he doesn’t have the charisma of a president. But we’ll see. As he says, it’s all about changing. Will it change for the better or the worse, I don’t know about that.
Are you worried about your future?
I am, yeah, a bit. Other socialist countries around us are in a scary situation.
Do you think that soon France will be as fucked as Greece?
Not as much, I guess. We have a glorious past and what it takes to deal with whatever gets in our way, but, hey, we’ll see.
Chloé, 20, student in advertisement
Did you come here specifically to see Hollande or do you just happen to be here?
I live in England, but I came to visit my family. I’m here for ten days. I jumped on the occasion to watch the ceremony because I voted for François Hollande.
Did you hate Sarkozy?
Yeah, his glitzy and ritzy attitude made me want to puke. He was really too much, and he was everywhere. And all these dirty money tricks… I hated him on the first night—come on, le Fouquet’s, really?
Are you worried for your future?
I am rather confident. A new era begins for France.
Céline, 25, stylist
What will you remember from Sarkozy’s presidency?
I’m here by chance, I don’t know at all. I’m a simple pedestrian.
You can’t think of anything?
Not at all.
Did you find his results as a president conclusive?
Pretty good, indeed.
Then are you afraid of what Hollande is gonna do?
I expect him to give a job to everyone, because I’ve been slogging away, trying to find a job, and I am still jobless. Right now I am self-employed.
Do you see your future as a shiny, bright path?
I’m not confident at all. I am more and more scared, because of my look. There is more and more aggression. I think I will have to leave France.
Shit. Where would you go?