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Sarkozy, C'est Fini!


Sunday night, at Place Bastille, where at least a hundred thousand jubilant people gathered under an overcast sky to welcome a new president, it all came down to two chants.

Sarkozy, c'est fini! (SAHR-ko-zee SAY-fee-nee)!

Hollande gagne! (OH-lan GAHN-yea)!

"Sarkozy is finished," and "Hollande won."

So ended the hard-fought and often nasty election campaign which saw France turn for the first time in sixteen years to the Socialists, making the center/right Nicolas Sarkozy a single-term president. 

This was the scene a few seconds past eight p.m., when the TV station being broadcast on the stadium-sized screen at Place Bastille flashed François Hollande's photograph, over the percentage of votes (51.7%) that exit polls showed him receiving. The jubilation was reminiscent of Barack Obama's 2008 Grant Park rally on election night in Chicago:


In addition to our exclusive Paris Play video, here are faces of the evening captured in stills, with our impressions, and a word or two about what we think could come next.


A line of (mostly) women dancing and ululating with glee

A father and daughter celebrate


And plenty of time for silliness


Each time the screen showed a picture of the outgoing president, seen here conceding defeat, the huge crowd booed...


...or worse


The young and lithe climbed to the base of the famous Bastille column


Thousands upon thousands of revelers boiled out of the Metro stations...


...and boogied on to Place Bastille, swelling the crowd to at least a hundred thousand strong


He was disappointed that the police forbade him to ride his motorcycle into the huge crowd...


...while these folks on rue St. Antoine cheered the celebrants from their safe second-floor perch


The magazine L'Express was hot off the presses within two hours, while the president-elect didn't arrive to address the waiting crowd until 12:45 the next morning


There were plenty of homemade signs, and the crowd was overwhelmingly young


The ubiquitous image of Che Guevara, found wherever leftist internationalists gather


In 2008, when Obama and his supporters celebrated in Grant Park, they did so under a growing economic cloud, the result of the Bush administration's mishandling of the American economy, which meant the celebrations had to be short, because the United States was in crisis. The economy cast a pall that Obama still labors under; as he runs for a second term, the Republicans work to foster the lie that the Great Recession is the Democratic president's fault.  

Three-and-a-half years after Grant Park, incoming president Hollande labors under a similar cloud. The European economy is worse off than the United States' (though the entire world economy is yoked together), and France suffers from record high unemployment, as its citizens chafe at the austerity measures the European Union is demanding.

Hollande's victory flies in the face of that demand. He believes (as does American economist Paul Krugman) that austerity is a ridiculous policy in the face of a recession, and that economies must be nurtured with strong government measures to increase employment and strengthen social programs.

The UK newspaper, The Independent, which doesn't like Hollande, grumps that Sarkozy's defeat "...poses once again the question of whether any national leader, of any party, can impose the degree of austerity deemed necessary by the financial markets and remain electable." One of the messages that both left and right were united on this year was that "financial markets" were not governments; the French wanted French elected officials, not Brussels-based European Union bureaucrats, to make economic and political decisions for their country.

Whatever the next weeks, months, or years of a Hollande presidency have to offer, the basic question is, what kind of a world will this young will-be voter, carried by her mother to witness this critical historical moment, find herself in when she comes of age?




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Reader Comments (12)

Beautiful evocation of the moment! Brought tears to my eyes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 17:29 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Griffin

Merci, Susan, ours too. Like something out of a Mark Kitchell movie. Or THAT Mark Kitchell movie.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 18:26 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Ignited activism, passion and sweat in me! Invigorating post with amazing images. Appreciated, too, the comparison in politics!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 19:37 | Unregistered CommenterCassandra

Dearest Cassandra,

We LOVE making YOU break out in a sweat. Thank you so much. It's an exciting moment in France, as it was in the U.S. four years ago!

Love, love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 20:53 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Austerity is so, so German. So is stubbornness. I don't see Merkel compromising on this. But maybe if Spain (and even Britain) change their policies it's possible. Meanwhile, loved the photos and text. Wish the euphoria could last.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 23:05 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Lansford

Hi, Ruth:

Yes, the Germans are wagging the dog. We're not fans of enforced austerity, either, but the EU requires some kind of delicate balance they haven't found yet. Adam Gopnik has a good perspective in the 7 May New Yorker, where he points out that the collective striving is far better than the incredible horrors that Europe experienced from 1914 to 1945. <http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2012/05/07/120507taco_talk_gopnik>

Much love to you and Bill,

--R & K

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 9:57 | Unregistered CommenterRichard and Kaaren

Dear Kaaren & Richard,

So fascinating to see through your eyes what seems to be a major event for France. I have the impression Sarkozy thought he was unbeatable? Yes, "financial markets are not governments"... so true, and so important to remember. Will be interesting to see Hollande's policies evolve. Will he have support from the French Parliament?

And wonderful photos, as always. So exciting to see people celebrating change which, hopefully, will be good for France and its citizens.


Friday, May 11, 2012 at 2:27 | Unregistered Commenterdawna


Sarkozy, who has been rather cocky in the past, seemed anxious in the days before the election. I think he knew he'd lose.

Hollande seems to be stepping into his new role with aplomb. And he's got a smart partner, one of the few heads of state in the world whose girlfriend, not wife, is accompanying him as president.

I think he will do a good job. The French seem (mostly) thrilled.

Richard thanks you for the compliments on his photos.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 22:13 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

J'adore the photos and video. THANK YOU for what truly feels like a bird's eye view of a momentous event.

One of the stills reminds me yet again, tho', that no one truly knows how to flip the bird like an American.

(For any Europeans reading this, the index and ring finger have to form "balls." If not, the gesture loses import. But please don't feel insulted, as Americans can't properly vaffangu'.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 22:25 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Ha ha, Anna!

Great point about flipping the bird. You're right, it doesn't work without the balls.

And pray tell, what is "vaffangu?" I looked it up on Google translate, and it tells me the English version is... vaffangu. Which is...?

Looking it up elsewhere, I get "spanking." Surely that's not what you meant? Or is it.

I give Richard credit on this one for all the great photos. He thanks you.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 23:44 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Vaffangu' is the slang version of vaffanculo, which is the slang version of.....va a fare un culo.....for which the literal translation is "go and perform anal sex on someone." This is usually accompanied by the right hand slapping the inside of the left elbow, while the left hand is clenched in a fist.

As with the bird, this gesture always looks a little...flaccid when executed by foreigners.

Monday, May 21, 2012 at 1:11 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Gosh, Anna,

You're so fluent in Italian speech and gesture you could move to Rome right now and thrive. (I predict that you will.)

Thank you for this useful Italian lesson.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Monday, May 21, 2012 at 1:54 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

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