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For Whom The Bell Tolls

Corine Ganem
May, 2012

The handover ceremony took place this morning, and now that Mr. François Hollande is officially France’s president, everyone can only wish him the best of luck.  In the context of free and fair elections, political change through the ballot box —what we call “alternance”— is the commendable sign of a healthy democracy. 

However, many people who favored the center-right Union for a Popular Movement feel some bitter resentment.  They claim that if the former president was defeated, it was less by Mr. Hollande than because of the media.  Throughout his five-year term, Mr. Sarkozy got systematically mocked, slammed, pilloried in the press, though he had been elected with a comfortable majority, reflecting the new hope he had instilled in the nation. What a difference with the honeymoon period following the election of President Obama, who was granted the Nobel Prize before he had accomplished anything! 

And what a difference with the hushed silence that once prevailed in French media about François Mitterrand's 30-year love affair with Anne Pingeot! That second life, and Mazarine, the child they had had before he became the first socialist President of the Fifth Republic, remained a well-kept secret until Mr. Mitterrand's funeral. 

Times have changed.  President Hollande will be under harsh scrutinity not only from his political opponents but from his leftist followers. After the many promises he has made, each awkward move, every mistake will be amplified by the media. So will the possible dissent within the right wing. If such is the case, France's next President may well be far-right leader Marine Le Pen. And then, freedom of the press may become a thing of the past.

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