French Voters Comment on Hollande's Victory Over Sarkozy

Below are comments about the French presidential election, in which Socialist Francois Hollande defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy of the Union for a Popular Movement:

“I voted Hollande, although my vote wasn’t one of support,” said Eric Boullerot, 22, who works at a Paris elementary school. “But Hollande is less bad than Sarkozy. At least he tried to unite people. He isn’t as divisive as Sarkozy.” Boullerot was part of a wave of thousands of people marching through the streets of Paris to the Bastille monument to celebrate Hollande’s victory.

“Sarkozy did some good things for entrepreneurs and innovative companies,” Andre Choulika, the founder and chief executive officer of Paris-based Cellectis SA, a DNA researcher, said in a telephone interview today. “At the same time, there are positive things in Hollande’s program, such as the plan to restructure tax breaks for corporate-research expenses in a way that is favorable to small and medium-sized businesses.

“What I find unsettling is that the success of entrepreneurs is coming under attack. I am concerned that we may be pushing out people who succeeded. Confiscatory taxes on people who have been successful, this worries me.”

“If there are reforms, it’s the economy as a whole that’s going to benefit,” said Charlotte Le Renard, 27, a public servant at the finance ministry, speaking at La Bastille square, where thousands of people converged to celebrate. “There won’t be reforms if they’re not accepted by everybody, and Hollande did exactly what he had to do, a campaign based on values, in which he has been able to speak to everyone.

“Sarkozy’s policies were right-wing and even very right-wing” like on national identity or the ban on voting for foreigners. “It’s going to be different, it’s going to be better,” she said.

“I voted Hollande and I am proud of it,” said Bechir Chekir, a 23-year-old French taxi driver of Tunisian origin. “I don’t like Sarkozy. I never liked Sarkozy. He was always a racist with Arabs. I watched the debate” on May 2. “Sarkozy made racist comments to win votes” from National Front Party leader Marine Le Pen. “Sarkozy only cares about rich people. I am young, and people like me have trouble making a living. Life will get better with Hollande.”

“I am disappointed,” said Mireille Gaudon, a 62-year-old retiree living in Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or, near Lyon, who voted for Sarkozy. “I don’t think Hollande will do the right thing to guarantee our economic independence. The first thing we need to do is to repay our debts. Hollande is demagogic, he won’t know how to say no, and he will end up raising spending. He said by how much he wanted to rein in spending, and he never explained exactly how he would do it. All this worries me.

“Sarkozy made tactical mistakes, and he made errors when it came to political finesse. He was too sincere, too naive in his behavior, at a time when all eyes were on him. He lacked the reserve that a president should have. These are details that the French always criticized him for. I also believe that the French who voted for him five years ago would have wanted him to go further with reform.”

“The French wanted a change but the impression is that this vote is more of a rejection of Sarkozy than a real adhesion to Hollande,” said Aurelie Barnier, a 35-year-old art teacher in Paris. “That said, people both on the right and on the left were positively surprised by the second part of Hollande’s campaign, in which he came through as less unassuming and neutral than many would have thought.

“I am not expecting any political ardor going forward. I expect he will be serious, do what he said he would do, do his job with more or less difficulty, given the situation we are in.”

On Sarkozy: “People today aren’t giving him credit for his achievements on the economic front. The thing is, the moment he could have brought them into prominence, the tide started changing and people started saying there has been too much austerity in Europe. So the one positive element of his record turned against him toward the end. He wasn’t lucky, just as Hollande got lucky with the Strauss-Kahn case. Without that, he never would have won the primaries.”

“I am here to support him until the last second,” said Bahija Abdaoui, 25, who was on the main square in Tulle, the town in south-central France that Hollande represents in Parliament. “I feel positive vibes for the future. He isn’t here by coincidence, he is here because he likes the people and they like him in return. It’s good to have a new face. Sarkozy was divisive and negative; he created segregation. We Muslims and immigrants will have a better life, I want to believe.”

“Sarkozy and his predecessors have crushed the middle class,” said Philippe Terraco, 51, who works in insurance in Tulle. “They did nothing for us. Hollande is talking to almost everyone, he isn’t trying to break us apart. He will bring together the workers, the unions and whoever wants a better future.”

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