Voter Anger Bodes Change in France

Socialist Party candidate for the presidential election Francois Hollande meets a resident with his companion Valerie Trierweiler, center, as he tours Tulle, after voting , May 6, 2012.
Socialist Party candidate for the presidential election Francois Hollande meets a resident with his companion Valerie Trierweiler, center, as he tours Tulle, after voting , May 6, 2012.

Sunday's national elections in Greece and France, along with local elections in Italy, are expected to be shaped by voter anger over Europe's high unemployment, sluggish growth and harsh government austerity measures.  In France, that anger could see President Nicolas Sarkozy lose to Socialist rival Francois Hollande in the runoff presidential election.

Voters trickle out of a municipal building on a chilly morning, heading home - or to a street market just around the corner to do their Sunday shopping.

Cyril Blanchard is one of them. A manager at Thompson-Reuters financial company, he says France's economic problems have helped shape his vote. Blanchard's choice: conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"I think we really need to do something to fight against the crisis and to reduce our deficits and to work on the wealth of the country, so that's what decided my vote," he said.

During his campaign, Sarkozy tried to convince voters he has the experience and stamina to make the tough choices that France needs at a time of high unemployment and almost zero growth. The French president also talked tough on curbing immigration.

Socialist candidate Francois Hollande says France needs measures to boost growth as well as cut spending.  He wants to renegotiate a European fiscal pact in this direction.  While Mr. Hollande also wants less immigration, his rhetoric and platform are less harsh than Sarkozy's.

Hollande's arguments have convinced teacher Delphine Barnier Schilot, who cast her ballot for the Socialist candidate.

Schilot believes Sarkozy's five years in office have been negative in every way. She says Hollande is fair and has integrity. She believes he will be able to tackle France's difficult economic problems.

Sunday's vote caps a bitter runoff campaign between the two candidates, who traded barbs and accusations of lying.

At the market near the polling station, some French, like fish seller Abdel Chili, are turned off by both men. He's cast an empty ballot in this runoff.

Chili sees little difference between Sarkozy and Hollande. But he's particularly angry at the French president, whom he calls a liar. But he says all politicians are just actors.

Chili's angry words are reflected across Europe, where people are bitter and tired after several years of tough economic times. They have vented their anger with their ballots, casting out more than half a dozen governments to date.

Nicolas Sarkozy
François Hollande
Nicolas Sarkozy


  • Elected President of France in 2007
  • Raised France's legal retirement age from 60 to 62
  • Born in 1955 and raised in Paris
  • Married to former supermodel Carla Bruni
  • Committed to balancing France's budget by 2016
François Hollande


  • Has never held national government office
  • Called for 75% tax on France's richest people
  • Wants to cut president's salary by 30%
  • Born 1954 in Roen
  • Not married; former partner of Segolene Royal
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Hasan
May 06, 2012 11:11 AM
Bye Sarkozy and old fashioned policies

by: ELChocko
May 06, 2012 7:05 AM
The French will lead the way that government will work in the future...print more money and buy off poor people with bread cake. France is a great country, maybe they will remember their history of internal courage and hard work

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs