The first round of the French Presidential Elections has just ended, narrowing the field down to just Francois Hollande and President Nicolas Sarkozy. With the run-off election in just two weeks, here are a few interesting tidbits that you might not know about them:
Six things that you might not know about Nicolas Sarkozy:
Despite his tough-on-immigration stance, Sarkozy is from immigrant parents himself: His father (who was mostly absent when he was a child) is a Hungarian Jew and his mother is half Greek Jewish and half French Catholic. Sarkozy was raised Catholic.
Sarkozy credits his tenacious personality to the childhood combination of being abandoned by his father, coupled with feeling inferior to his taller and wealthier classmates.
Once he got his law degree he specialized in family law and business. Most people don’t know that he was one of Silvio Berlusconi’s top French attorneys at the time!
It was a crazed bomber taking a kindergarten class hostage in the Paris suburb of Neuilly that capulted Sarkozy onto the national scene. He was the Mayor of Neuilly, and after the bomber was killed and the children were saved, the photos of Sarkozy leaving the building holding two children when global.
As Mayor, Sarkozy’s duties included acting as Justice of the Peace, and he met wife number 2, Cecilia, when he officiated her marriage (!) to a famous French talk show host in 1988. They started a torrid affair and she left her husband for Sarkozy within a year, and he soon left his wife.
Cecilia Sarkozy acted as his top aide as he rose on the national scene, but in 2005 the relationship was on the rocks, and Sarkozy found himself running for President while simultaneously trying to save his marriage. The nearly 20-year relationship ended soon after he took office, and one month later he met Carla Bruni, who coincidentally bears a striking resemblance to Cecilia.
Six things you might not know about Francois Hollande:
Hollande is running as a Mr. French Everyman, but his campaign is strictly American. His three top advisors are young American-schooled Frenchmen that met at Harvard and MIT, and are duplicating Obama’s 2008 strategy.
Hollande owes his candidacy to DSK, who would have been the front-runner, and probably would have beaten Sarkozy, if he hadn’t had that 5-minute encounter with a hotel maid as he came out of the shower, that she thinks was rape, and he thinks… was completely consensual.
Hollande is the front-runner this year, but in the last election the candidate running against Sarkozy was Segolene Royale, Hollande’s life-companion for 30 years and the mother of his 4 children. As the Head of the Socialist Party, he was somewhat blamed for the failure of her campaign, and now that they’ve split up… he’s running.
Other than heading up the Socialist Party (while they’ve been out of power), he has never held a Ministerial post or anything on a national-level, other than being a one-term representative for the department of Correze on the National Assembly.
As opposed to Sarkozy’s Energizer Bunny reputation, Hollande’s nickname is Flamby, after the pudding.
Brigitte Bardot was quoted last weekend as saying that having a French President named Hollande would be as bad as if the French President was named Germany.
Watch the one and only televised debate on Wednesday, May 2 at 9pm, which will broadcast with simultaneous translation on France24 English.
See Related Blog Posts: Ten ways Sarko has changed France for the better, What will the new Hollande presidency mean for France?