For the record, I am not French but Belgo-American. My mother tongue and my culture are French. I live in New York since 1996 and became an American citizen as soon as it was possible to do so without losing my Belgian nationality.
My viewpoint is therefore non-partisan and tries to look at what lies ahead for President Francois Hollande. He will be a meaningfulpresident and gets this important responsibility at a time when France, and for that matter, Europe is facing huge challenges, particularly in the economic and financial fields.
Francois Hollande is more experienced that one gives him credit for. While never having held a ministerial post, he was the leader of the Socialist Party including when it was at Government, or when Francois Mitterrand was president of France. He has held important political responsibilities and displayed during this campaign moderation and statesmanship.
The election of the French House of Representatives in June will define the landscape of the new Assembly. It is the time when both the extreme right and the extreme left will try to get seats. It is too early to know what the new majority will be . A cohabitation of a right Government and a left Presidency is not new in France. Precisely because the presidential election has shown an uprising of extremists who represent one third of the French electorate, the new president will need to navigate towards the center to be effective and get the parliamentary backing he will need.
The economic situation of France is dire. The 55 percent increase of public debt under Sarkozy's Government is a difficult legacy. The loss of S&P's AAA rating was more than a debt issue. It is a blow to the debt management that led to this situation. It is also a limit to what a social policy could be. President Hollande will not be able to spend irresponsibly. As one can expect from a socialist Government, there will be efforts to use taxation of the wealthiest and corporations to fulfill some social objectives. France will need to find a way to unite to restore its financial credibility. Hopefully, the United States will find a way to do the same after the presidential election and find bipartisanship to serve the country.
While he criticized some recent decisions and treaties of the European Union, President Francois Hollande is deeply European. The president will inherit a difficult Eurozone debt crisis that is far from resolved. The Greek election is there to remind us of those challenges. France would be too vulnerable to a contagion coming from Italy or Spain to afford irresponsible behaviors at European level. France, under Francois Hollande, will be a responsible member of the European Union and the Eurozone. On the first day of his election, he will call German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was supportive of his opponent.
There are still a number of uncertainties, but the United States would be well advised not to consider that the fact that he is a socialist president could be a problem. He needs support from international leaders, and is also Atlanticist. He will be a loyal partner of the United States. France, whether it is right or left, has a strange relationship with the US. A combination of admiration and particularism, but also a cultural and social pride, will not change because of this election.
While I am not afraid, I am not complacent. Knowing the current and undercurrents of France, I know that there is always a risk of ideological derailment. Vigilance is required, but fear has no place in that relationship.
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