Following his victory Sunday, the 57-year-old François Hollande shouted himself hoarse, as he had done so often during the campaign, thanking his supporters for electing him president and promising to unite the whole country. “On this May 6, the French have just chosen change in bearing me to the office of president,” he declared before a wildly cheering crowd in his hometown of Tulle, in the rural Correze region.
Richard Prasquier, President of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF), the umbrella group of Jewish-French organizations, expressed concerns that one of the changes the Hollande presidency brings is a boost to the anti-Israel left.
Left-wing candidate Hollande has defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday’s runoff election, becoming the first Socialist to win a French presidential election since François Mitterrand in 1988.
Tens of thousands of people descended on the Place de la Bastille in Paris Sunday night, to celebrate the Socialist candidate’s victory.
Hollande has promised bigger government spending and a 75% income tax on the rich. He also wants to renegotiate a European treaty on budget cuts, to avoid any more Greek style debt crises.
In his victory speech at the Bastille Hollande vowed to move away from the “fatalist” concept that austerity was the only way to solve the debt crisis. He offered instead increased productivity as the direction for France’s economy.
France’s Interior Ministry said the left-wing candidate had claimed around 51.7% of the runoff vote to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s 48.3%, with turnout at 81%. Sarkozy, the center-right candidate, was considered the favored candidate among French Jews.
Sarkozy conceded, saying, “Francois Hollande is the president of the republic; he must be respected.”
Sarkozy is the ninth European leader to be ousted since the start of the continent’s debt crisis.
Speaking to reporters Monday before a meeting at the French Consulate in New York, CRIF President Prasquier said, “We know that some of the parties who are supposed to be partners of the coalition in favor of François Hollande are not friends of Israel. The part they will play we will see.”
Hollande won the backing of centrist François Bayrou, who took nine percent in the first round, and Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Left Front, who took 11 percent.
But Prasquier also said that both Hollande and Sarkozy are friends of Israel and share the same views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But, he added, Hollande is untested when it comes to Iran, and there are closer ties between the Socialist Party and the anti-Israel far left than there are between Sarkozy’s party and the xenophobic far right represented by Marine Le Pen’s National Front.
The problem, Prasquier said, is not with Hollande or the people close to him, but with the adamantly anti-Israel parties that are supporting him.
“I do not expect the far left would be given the position of foreign minister,” he said, “but if they have more visibility there might be an increase in demonstrations against Israel in the public society — BDS and so on — and we will have to face them. But we will have to face the demonstrations, not the government.”
Prasquier said he was not happy about the strong showing by Le Pen, but he does not believe that her support is comprised wholly of anti-Semites. Rather, he said, “the new category of Jew-bashing comes from those who present themselves as being anti-Zionists” – namely, the far left.
“Those people who stigmatize, who vilify on the very precise and unique way the State of Israel instead of stigmatizing the other countries,” he said, are showing “behavior very similar to the behavior used in the past to pinpoint Jews as responsible for everything.”
Prasquier said he does not believe France is an anti-Semitic country. He said the way to prevent attacks like the shooting in March at the Jewish school in Toulouse is to increase security.
“I do not see any possibility of preventing another action of this kind without increasing the level of security,” Prasquier said. “It’s not a question of reaching out. We are trying to reach out as much as possible to the Muslim community. We should not mix up the Muslim community with the awful deeds of this murderer.”
Hollande will be sworn in on May 15. The French parliamentary election will be held over two rounds on June 10 and June 17.
JTA reports were included in this article.