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NEWS: Francois Hollande elected president of France


Agence France Presse reports, “Socialist Francois Hollande swept to victory in France’s presidential election on Sunday in a swing to the left at the heart of Europe that could start a pushback against German-led austerity. Hollande was set to beat conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy by a decisive 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent margin… The president conceded defeat within 20 minutes of the last polls closing telling supporters he had telephoned Hollande to wish him good luck.” “His margin also positions the Socialists strongly to win a left-wing majority in parliamentary elections next month, vital to implement his plans for a swift tax reform. If it wins that two-round election on June 10 and 17, the Socialist Party would hold more levers of power than ever in its 43-year history, with the presidency, both houses of parliament, nearly all regions, and two-thirds of French towns in its hands.” “Hollande will join a minority of left-wing governments in Europe and has vowed to renegotiate a budget discipline treaty signed by 25 EU leaders in March, to add growth measures. Berlin has made the pact a pre-condition of aid for struggling states. Hollande plans to visit the centre-right Merkel in Berlin within days of the election to discuss his ideas and planned to speak to her by telephone on Sunday evening, said Jean-Marc Ayrault, tipped as a likely Socialist prime minister. …Little known outside France, Hollande will soon (also) have his diplomatic skills tested at a Chicago NATO summit in late May and a Group of 20 summit in Mexico in late June. The former Socialist Party chief has never held a ministerial post.” It is not clear at this point what impact Hollande’s election will have on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which is expected to be signed this coming October or November. Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew has noted that our allies in France have stated that Hollande is pro-free trade, but that they would approach members of the new government about CETA. Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders adds, “Mr. Hollande (is) promising to push Europe’s focus away from trans-Atlantic military and trade relationships toward a more insular emphasis on the European Union. …The Canada-European Union free-trade agreement, championed by Mr. Sarkozy, could move to the back burner…” And Council of Canadians energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue notes, “This change in government could also spell a change in France’s position on the European Fuel Quality Directive. In a meeting with Mr. Hollande’s Environment and Climate Advisor, Canadians participating in a tar sands lobby-busting tour heard positive support for the climate policy which recognizes tar sands as a high carbon fuel.” Election in Greece AFP also reports, “But the celebrations may be overshadowed by a political bombshell in Greece, where mainstream parties were hammered in a parliamentary election that exit polls suggested may leave supporters of Athens’ IMF/EU bailout without a majority, raising doubts about its future in the euro zone.” CBC reports, “The results of the (Greek) election (today) could determine the course the country takes after years of austerity measures that have angered voters but which were critical in convincing international creditors to extend Greece loans to keep its debt-saddled economy afloat.” The results so far for the 300 seats in the Greek parliament appear to be: – the conservative New Democracy party with 109 seats – the leftist Syriza party with 50 seats – the socialist PASOK with 42 seats. “Days of wrangling over forming a coalition will likely ensue, with the prospect — alarming to Greece’s lenders and much of the country’s population — of another round of elections if they fail. …Up to an unprecedented 10 parties have been projected to win more than the 3 per cent minimum threshold for a parliamentary seat. That includes the extreme right Golden Dawn, which has been riding high on the emotive issue of illegal immigration, promising to clean up crime-ridden, ghetto-like city neighbourhoods and mine the country’s borders to stop more migrants getting in.” “Entirely dependent on billions of euros worth of international rescue loans from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund, Greece must impose yet more austerity measures next month, if it is to keep the money flowing and prevent a default and a potentially disastrous exit from the euro.” The Agence France Presse report can be read at http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Socialist+Hollande+ousts+Sarkozy+French+leader/6575025/story.html. The CBC report is at http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/news/story/2012/05/06/greece-election.html.