Monday, 7 May 2012

reflections on the french elections

so.  nicolas sarkozy.

if i were in france, i'd be down a the the place de la bastille, cheering with all the others.  probably not so much for the victory of mr hollande, but for the fact that mr sarkozy is no longer in a position to peddle the hate that he has continuously done during his term in office.

about mr hollande i have yet to form an opinion.  i doubt, like mr obama, that he will be awarded a nobel peace prize simply for the act of winning an election.  although he should be getting some kind of award for the act of ousting sarkozy.  but whether or not this is a real victory for the people will depend entirely on his ability to make meaningful change.

the danger is that he is bound by policies entrenched by mr sarkozy.  or that the financial institutions and big businesses have too much of a hold on the french economy for anything revolutionary to happen.  that he will oppose austerity measures is good to hear, but how will it work in practice?  i haven't been following him closely, i don't know the details of his policies or whether he published a balanced budget before the election to show how he was going to make it all work.

but we live in hope.  the people of iceland had the courage to face down the international banking system and they won.  but they are a very small country, and the stakes weren't so high for the international banking people.  france is another matter altogether, and the flow-on effects for the whole european economy make it an even more important fight for the financial system to win.  until now there have been mass protests in spain, in greece and elsewhere across europe.  there were riots in britain, as well as the occupy movement.  none yet have managed to make any meaningful change.

the elections in greece, from what i've read, haven't given any clear results.  so mr hollande is it.  he is the great hope for all of europe.  and if he succeeds in making meaningful change, in disestablishing the establishment, then the impact will be felt around the world.

meaningful change isn't only needed in the economic sphere.  i also wonder whether mr hollande will have the courage to reverse some of the nastier laws brought in by mr sarkozy.  will french school girls be allowed to cover their hair in public?  will we continue to see scenes like this:

i think that if he chooses to overturn these laws, it will show that he really does have a new and better vision for france - one that will benefit all the citizens of that country.  it will be a signal of his courage and commitment to making france a better country.

but even if he fails to do that, i have a strong sense of hope that the nastiness that regularly came out of sarkozy's mouth will not be heard from the new president.  and even that is a positive thing.  who knows, i may even feel the urge to visit france again.

having studied french language & culture all through high school and up to second-year university, having won several alliance francaise prizes for my french speaking ability, having visited france in 1998, and having a decades-long dream of spending a couple of months in paris, it really hurt me to see the restrictions placed on muslim women.  how could i, a woman who wears a headscarf when she leaves her home, feel in any way comfortable in a country where young women weren't free to do the same?

here's hoping for change.

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