France 2012: Hollande president

  • 7 May 2012

PARIS, MAY 7 – Francois Hollande is France’s new president, 17 years after the previous socialist president Francois Mitterrand. Between these two: Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and many humiliating defeats for the French ‘gauche’.

The new president immediately addressed Europe, promising ”a new start”, and was called by Angela Merkel, who invited him to Berlin, Mario Monti who proposed closer collaboration and U.S.

President Barack Obama.

With celebrations still in progress, Hollande is already focusing on his tasks. The euro opened down today in Asia, with Hollande’s electoral promises influencing the markets. Last night the new president celebrated under the rain in Tulle, where Hollande was mayor for years and where everybody knows him personally. Later he got on a jet and after one hour he and his partner Valerie Trierweiler arrived at the Bastille, where the new president said he represents ”the young people of France” and announced that this is the start ”of a new European movement”, adding that the time has come to say ”farewell to austerity.” The first phone call Hollande received as president, before Merkel’s call, was made by his opponent Nicolas Sarkozy: “I have wished him good luck,” said the ousted president, who has fought to the last moment to turn his defeat around. ”I have made mistakes, but I accept the responsibility for this defeat”, said a bitter Sarkozy, who is the second president not to be re-elected after Giscard d’Estaing. Sarkozy’s speech was serious and in the end he showed signs of emotion, drained by a very hard and cruel election campaign in which he was abandoned by some important members of his own party. The first thing he said was that he will no longer be leader of the party, leaving the upcoming parliamentary elections in June (looking very bad for his party in the polls) to others, the Fillon-Copé-Juppé triad, which will now take over the leadership of UMP. “Another battle begins,” said the leaders of the defeated right-wing parties, while Marine Le Pen – who had announced to vote blank, that way indirectly helping Hollande – did not care about this defeat: the operation Blue-Marine focuses on emptying the UMP and replace the party, now more than ever. But according to Sarkozy, who did not announce leaving politics, the battle ends here.

France has closed the chapter Sarkozy, the man who has irritated the left and who promised to modernise the country, irritating many in his own party as well. He has carried out half of the reforms he has promised. But the real reasons he lost the vote were his methods and his often arrogant approach, which have done no good for his image. Any concerns Europe may have had about losing Sarkozy, one of the cornerstones of the French-German couple over the past years, seemed to have vanished in the first reactions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Hollande to congratulate him and invited him to come to Berlin, where so far she has refused to receive him. Monti said he hopes the two countries will ”work together closely, particularly in European context, forming an increasingly effective union focusing on growth.” Obama welcomed Hollande on the international stage, starting at the Camp David G8 summit.


Tunisia: unemployed protest against work selection criteria

  • 6 May 2012

TUNIS, MAY 3 – The mining area of Gafsa, the most important in Tunisia for the extraction and treatment of phosphates, one of the key contributing factors to the country’s economy, is paralysed by a series of protests, which are mainly targeting the Gafsa phosphates company (CPG), which enjoys a monopoly in the sector.

CPG activity has been blocked for days by protests by hundreds of people without jobs, who dispute the selection criteria for the hiring of around a thousand members of staff (out of 2,700 candidates), which is claimed to have been significantly conditioned and altered, the young people say. The protests, particularly sit-ins, which have blocked access for workers at the company, have targeted the CPG’s main offices (including the company headquarters) and the research centre.

The Ministry of Professional Training and Employment has called for a return to order, saying that the results of the selection process, and the subsequent list of possible employees, can always be contested with the presentation of appeals that will be closely examined.