At 8:00 p.m., Place de la Bastille erupted in joyous celebration. Hands reached toward the sky, people embraced, jumped in the air and shouted, “victory!” Hollande became the new President of the Republic, leaving Nicolas Sarkozy trailing in his wake.
By 6:30 pm, the Bastille was already swarming with the young and old, families, and all of those who binned their Sarkozy ballots this Sunday, May 6, 2012. The atmosphere was friendly as some drank beer and chatted as they waited for results. Up until 7:00, only a few slogans were shouted here and there, and a few “Hollande 2012” flags waved timidly. Those gathered at the Bastille held roses or pinned them to their coats to express their hopes.
Some, however, knew the results ahead of the official announcement from news organizations abroad.
"We are very confident [in the result],” said Laura, Kathleen and Paloma with a smile. But for Cécile and Arnaud, who came with their two children, “Even if we saw the results on a Belgian site, we’re still a little worried, because they are still just predictions, and we are really hoping [Hollande] will win.”
At 7:30, spirits were higher and Bastille Square was packed. The crowd soon reacher a fever pitch. “We have won, we have won,” people cried as many climbed up the Colonne de Juillet. “Leave, Sarko, get out” and “Sarko, it’s over,” were shouted back and forth 10 minutes before the official results were announced. All eyes were on the screen, and there a blend of tension and excitement filled the air until François Hollande’s face appeared. Then the Champaign corks popped, the people shouted with one voice, and for a brief moment, the crowd seemed in perfect harmony.
“We won!” From 8:00 on, there is joy on every face. “‘Victory’ was my first word, I am full of expectation, I am old and don’t have much time left, but I hope it will be enough for me to witness a real change,” Sylvie tells us. “I am not French, but I’ve been here for six years and I am really happy for France. Sarkozy destroyed our social unity, and we hope that Hollande will bring people together, and our society will only be better,” says Houma in impeccable French.
A Very Festive Atmosphere
As we move away from the center of the square, people are dancing, singing, toasting each other with Champaign flutes or glasses of beer. People climb onto phone booths, street signs, barriers, even trees. They jump, shout for joy and burn “Nicolas Sarkozy” ballots. The atmosphere reaches its apex and a wave of serenity takes over the crowd. Even if Alexis and Antoine, 19, do not believe in “a miracle, especially in terms of the economy, Hollande’s election is really something amazing. It symbolizes hope and people coming together.”
“France will be able to breathe easier. With Hollande, we have hope for a France that is more just. Sarkozy created divisions between people, and we believe François Hollande can bring them together,” say Sébastien, Nicolas and Didier, who came to celebrate the victory together. Looking at all the people who came out for this celebration, France appears more multicultural and multigenerational than ever. Algerian, French, Syrian, Ivory Coast flags fly in harmony. “The important thing is that Sarkozy is out. Finally, we are proud to be French. Our country will be unified once again,” Khady, Manel and Luc tell us, before adding, “You see, we are all represented now, and it feels great!”
Bastille Not Emptying Out
“We’re hoping for less disunity and injustice, more equality and happiness. With Hollande, we finally have hope,” Mégane insists. “The new President of the Republic has his work cut out for him, but damn it, we believe in him, and it is finally time for change!” says Nicolas enthusiastically.
At 1:30 the concert continues and François Hollande has delivered his speech, but neither the Place de la Bastille, nor the Colonne de Juillet, nor any of the surrounding side streets are emptying out. The celebration and the crowd's victorious spirit continue into the night.