22 Apr 2012

Hollande or Sarkozy? The differences explained

Why would France vote for either Hollande or Sarkozy in today’s elections? Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Rugman explains.



1) “Change”. There hasn’t been a Socialist President since Francois Mitterand left office in 1995.

2) Niceness. People like Hollande. Mr Ordinary. Perhaps the unifying father figure France needs in troubled times.

3) Promises. Lots of them. Including lowering the state pension age to 60, taxing the very rich at 75 percent, cutting the salaries of President and Ministers.

4) Inclusiveness. Ethnic minorities more likely to vote for a candidate who doesn’t polarise.

5) The UnSarkozy. People may vote against the incumbent as much as they vote for Hollande. Can’t underestimate the extent to which voters feel Sarkozy has failed to embody the French Republic as President.

6) Sarkozy’s record. Unemployment is close to 10 percent. The highest in 12 years. And Hollande would not be the first European opposition leader to turn the crisis in the Eurozone to his advantage.


1) Experience. He has done the job for 5 years and served as Finance/Interior Minister before that.

2) Charisma. Though he attracts and repels in equal measure.

3) Promises to halve immigration/protect national identity. Standing up for what he calls a “Strong France”.

4) Fear of Hollande. Will the Socialist dirigiste spend France’s way into economic calamity?

5) What you see is what you get. Sarkozy is rarely less than blunt.

6) His record. He has raised the retirement age and made it easier to opt out of the 35 hour week. Not necessarily popular decisions, but a “you may not like me, but you need me” appeal to voters.

Follow Jonathan Rugman on Twitter: @jrug