May 7th, 2012
05:07 PM ET

After the French election, will divisions remain?

After winning Sunday's presidential election in France, Socialist François Hollande is set to take over the reins from Nicolas Sarkozy by May 15.

What will be on Hollande's short-term agenda, what happens to Sarkozy and how will Sunday's results affect parliamentary elections in June? CNN's international correspondent in Paris Jim Bitterman weighs in.

Q: Why was there such high voter turnout?

BITTERMANN: One of the things that apparently happened is that Marine Le Pen, the National Front candidate who urged her voters to follow her lead and vote a blank ballot, apparently succeeded because there are more than 2 million blank ballots that were cast Sunday.

Now, normally those votes would have gone to Nicolas Sarkozy, because they are right-wingers who had no place else to go. They would have normally voted for the president. Sarkozy lost by about 1.2 million votes or so. And as a consequence, if he had gotten some of those blank ballots, he very easily might have won - or at least it was possible for him to win.

So, preliminarily, it looks like Marine Le Pen's strategy worked.

Q: What can we expect from the new French president in the immediate future, especially in regards to the European Union debt crisis?

BITTERMANN: There's a busy agenda ahead of Francois Hollande. He's got official duties and some unofficial duties. He's got to get his government together. He's got to name his cabinet. He's going to have to take part in commemorations on Tuesday for V-E Day, marking the end of war in Europe. And then he's said he's flying off to Germany to see leader Angela Merkel. ...

The handover of power takes place on the 15th. He's got G8 meetings coming up on the 18th and 19th in the United States and NATO meetings on the 20th and 21st. So a packed agenda for Hollande.

And in the midst of all this, he has to reassure his voters that he really meant it when he was talking about finding areas to concentrate on growth in the European Union rather than the idea of just austerity. And he repeated that again Sunday night to his followers who gathered by the tens of thousands in the Bastille. ...

So, Hollande has his work cut out for him. And by the way, Sarkozy has not completely disappeared. He's going to participate with Hollande on Tuesday in these V-E commemorations here in Paris. And Sarkozy is also Monday afternoon in a planning session with some of the leaders of his party to try to figure out how the party can capture a majority of seats in the legislative elections which are coming up on June 10.

Q: In terms of the overall French political landscape: As we saw in those televised debates, the campaign got very personal between Hollande and Sarkozy. So is France much more politically divided after this election? What does that mean for parliamentary elections in June?

BITTERMANN: Well, that's going to be a good bellwether of exactly how divided the country is. Hollande says he's going to try to bring people together and that Sarkozy was a divisive force. And in fact a lot of criticism was heaped on Sarkozy's shoulders in the wake of the debate when he took a kind of street fighter approach, accused his opponent of being a liar and a slanderer and things like that which a number of people within his own party felt was just totally unjustified and a little bit over the top.

So there's a lot of sentiment out there that Sarkozy himself was a big factor in these divisions within France. But on the other hand there are pretty divergent political views, including those expressed by Marine Le Pen on the right, but also by Melenchon on the extreme left. The extremist parties got about 30 percent of the vote in the first round of the election. So it's an indication that people out there have got a lot of different points of views and sometimes very extreme points of view.

And when these legislative elections come up, all the same parties that were in there for the first round of the presidential elections will be in there for the legislative elections. And so you'll see some of that come out in some of these local elections as well.

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Topics: Elections • France

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    The late Muammar Gaddafi can now rest in his grave. One might hear a chuckle of schadenfreude from his incarcerated son, Saif al-Islam as well. This time last year the world saw Sarkozy give orders to destroy Libya's armed forces. The man who chased Gaddafi out of power has been ousted himself and goes into France's history as the second one-term president of the Fifth Republic.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Yes, France was divided under Sarkozy and it had to do with his "rule-and-divide" policy. He was fickle, emotional and hot-tempered. He was not a father figure that should unite the country. Francois Hollande is quite the opposite. With his serenity he would set France on a new course. Despite his lack of experience, he will find a strong crew to weather the storms.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:12 am | Reply
      • George Patton

        There's no doubt about it j.von hettlingen, that Nicholas Sarkozy was the very worst President France ever had! He essentially transformed France from a sovereign country to a virtual colony of the United States. Moreover he plunged that country with the help of that Washington-loving Angela Merkel, into one of the worse depressions it ever had!

        May 8, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • qq

      I think Sarkozy (who is still alive) is much better off than the late Gaddafi.

      May 8, 2012 at 11:48 am | Reply
  2. amacd385

    It's even more clear to me today, and particularly after this major vote to reject the facade of "Globalization" and instead recognize the reality of the corporate/financial/militarist (and media) “Global Empire” that has captured and now "Occupies" our former country and much of the 'western world', that Europe, rather than the US, will lead the 'action' to recognize, expose, and confront this DGE (Disguised Global Empire).

    However, if the American initiated Occupy movement shows the vision to overtly re-focus itself as an "Occupy the Empire" movement in the US, which is after all the nominal headquarters of the DGE, then American youth, workers, and the 99% may well be able to act as a major factor in the coming educational and revolutionary movement "Against Empire" [Michael Parenti] primarily because of the impact that an "Occupy the Empire" movement could have by revolting within the belly of the empire.

    Best luck and love to the "Occupy Empire" educational movement.

    Liberty, democracy, equality & justice

    Alan MacDonald
    Sanford, Maine

    May 7, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Reply
    • Yakobi

      You use the word "empire" too frequently.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Reply
    • Mike

      What a loon!

      May 8, 2012 at 2:20 am | Reply
  3. Marine5484

    Whether Europe remains divided or not, hopefully this Francois Hollande won't be quite as anxious to carry out orders from Washington D.C. as Sarkozy had been. The best thing France can do for itself is to pull out of the Eurozone, return to using the French franc and fix it's own economy without outside interference. Moreover, the French need to pull out of Afghanistan as soon as possible as their troops never served French interests there in the first place but only those of our M.I.C. in Washington!

    May 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Reply
    • qq

      Agreed, the EURO will be dead. Agreed, leave Afghanistan today.

      May 8, 2012 at 11:50 am | Reply
  4. laci

    The french election brought to the surface just how inadequate the current left/right dominated ideological debates are in providing us an answer to our problems. In France and elsewhere in Europe, austerity has become a dirty word, so now they are trying to cliam that spending is the key to growth. In US, where thus far there has been no austerity, they claim that stimulating the economy through gov't spending has fialed, so we need to embrace austerity. Truth is that both aproaches are now discredited, yet we go back and forth. It is an indication of just how stagnated our culture has become, due to the now dominant war of ideology between left/right, which continues to invest us emotionally in the same old arguments we fought for over a hundred years now, but are actually quite irelevant to our present situation.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Reply
  5. ✠ RZ ✠

    Unrelated post/news flash; Al Qaeda markets new line of underwear. It's called "Fruit of the Boom".

    May 7, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Reply
  6. ✠ RZ ✠

    Not too sure if there's something lost in translation, but the Chinese don't seem to have a whole lot of interest in Hollande's "election". Can't say that I blame them neither.

    May 8, 2012 at 12:21 am | Reply
  7. Got A Brain

    Ya know, I didn't once notice mention of how France is broke, and as they have around half their energy from nuclear
    plants maybe that's why

    May 8, 2012 at 2:44 am | Reply
  8. sam kohen

    France needs a leader like Marshal Petain who ruled France from 1940 – 1944. Under his wise benevolent rule France had law and order and discipline. This was what France needs now. This is the man France needs now.

    May 8, 2012 at 6:30 am | Reply
  9. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    A company is as rich as its assets, that absolutely includes humanitarian assets.

    The greatest threat that France (& Europe) is facing is a depletion of that asset base due to hordes of unadaptable, unqualified, welfare dependent immigrants from Islamic countries who have NOT only brought in their religious dogmas, but also a POLITICAL IDEOLOGY that's totally alien to France.

    Talking about cutting down on AUSTERITY while it may seem attractive for France to borrow from international capital markets given the low worldwide interest rates, with the steady depletion of their asset base, France may never be in a position to pay back the borrowed money, especially given that a lot of the money may actually go towards UNPRODUCTIVE USE such as WELFARE!

    So France is standing on a FLIMSY foundation and can never survive UNLESS they adapt bold measures to stem this tide, and deport all those who have entered illegally, and STOP their self defeatist ASYLUM regime.

    Without these steps FRANCE will very soon fall by the way side like GREECE & SPAIN.

    May 8, 2012 at 8:43 am | Reply
  10. Michael D'Angelo

    Authority ignores democracy’s primary purpose by suspending the counting of presidential election ballots and appointing its preferred conservative candidate. The surprise to some is not its relation to Greek or French current affairs but rather the US election of 2000.

    Others wonder whether the US Supreme Court will continue its present course in judicially active big government.

    What does the ordinary citizen need to know about Obamacare and Supreme Court Review? Experience Life among the Ordinary and read the second segment in a three part series at

    May 8, 2012 at 9:13 am | Reply
  11. Hahahahahahaha

    The rich always think they are better than the poor. So the answer is Yes. Hahahahahahahaha

    May 8, 2012 at 9:40 am | Reply
  12. gaucho420

    This is a shameful day in France. My family left the country in the 80s due to the socialists, as our small business was taxed at 60%. Now, Hollande wants to up the ante to 70%. I foresee yet another brain drain, as in the 80s. Its a failed political system and this time, it might bring all of Europe to its knees.

    May 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  13. Matt A.

    When the Eurozone collapses, will their be divisions in France and elsewhere?

    Dah! That's the nature of financial collapses. Political divisiveness may be the least of their problems.

    May 9, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Reply
  14. money

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    May 19, 2012 at 3:45 am | Reply

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